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Featured Release Roundup: June 7, 2017

Featured Release Roundup: June 7, 2017

by Daniel Lupton

June 07, 2017


Here's what I've been listening to this week. I've been in a bit of reflective mood, so the denser, more atmospheric--perhaps even psychedelic--sounds of Institute and Brainbombs have been moving me the most this past week, though I've gotten plenty of enjoyment out of the other releases mentioned here as well. We've also been burning up those Subhumans reissues in the shop... I swear, I don't think that band has a bad song in their entire first era discography. Anyway, here are my thoughts... feel free to agree or disagree in the comments!

Institute: Subordination 12” (Sacred Bones) I’ve been a big fan of Institute since I first heard them, and despite the fact that their discography has now swollen well past the point at which most modern DIY punk bands go into hibernation I remain extremely interested in what they’re up to. It makes sense that they have moved over to Sacred Bones, as I feel like Institute long ago transcended the retro mentality that holds so much of the DIY punk scene back. While one might still, broadly at least, categorize their music as post-punk-inspired, like a number of the actual post-punk bands like the Fall, the Birthday Party, or Swell Maps, they’ve developed a framework that is distinctly their own but flexible enough to give them room to grow. And while there are a number of bands that you might compare Institute to sonically—Zounds would probably be the closest point of comparison I can think of—they don’t sound like a tribute act, but rather like a band just being themselves. Like their last album, the excellent Catharsis, there’s a lot to digest here, and after eight or ten listens I’m still intrigued enough to listen closely and feel like I’m still figuring things out. There are so many little riffs and guitar lines I’m intrigued by, song structures that do things that push against my expectations, and of course loads of evocative lyrics. In a word, Institute has real depth, and while not a lot has changed sonically from their earlier releases (though Subordination is a little heavier, rawer, and more riff-driven than Catharsis), it’s a testament to the richness of what they’re doing that it still feels like there’s plenty to explore here. This is easily one of my favorite releases of the year so far, and one I’m sure I’ll be listening to closely for quite some time.

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Sarcasm: Malarial Bog 7” (Static Shock) Debut EP from this London band. They’re very much in the post-punk musical vein with their tom-heavy drums, bass lines that seem to take the melodic lead, bored-sounding vocals, and guitars that alternate between simple, single-string melodies and thin and scratchy chords. The label’s description makes a lot of apt comparisons—Hygiene (does anyone remember them? Sorry State’s collection of backstock seems to indicate that not many of you do), Crisis, the Fall—but the one aspect of Sarcasm’s sound that those comparisons don’t get at is the artiness. Even though it’s musically much simpler, I get a real big whiff of Magazine’s art school aesthetic, or perhaps more appropriately Gang of Four or Delta 5. A lot of people have an instinctive negative reaction to bands that wear their intellectualism on their collective sleeve as Sarcasm do, but I love this nervy, cerebral stuff. So, if that sounds like it’s up your alley I strongly recommend giving this a try, perhaps chasing it with a draught of ignorant hardcore right after.

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Sievehead: Worthless Soul 12” (Static Shock) Second LP from this band out of the fertile Sheffield, UK punk scene. While the bands that originally drew my attention to Sheffield have more of a hardcore/punk aesthetic grounded in Wire’s early fast songs, Sievehead are much more atmospheric and melodic, though in their own way just as intense. Sonically, Sievehead sound to me like they’re bringing together a bunch of interesting threads that haven’t been brought together in precisely this way before; they have a little bit of the Birthday Party’s twang-infused post-punk, some of the density and maximalism of shoegaze, as well as quite a lot of the Chameleons’ melodically rich post-punk in their sound. I suppose that the thing that unites all of those things—and is, to some extent, the defining characteristic of Sievehead’s sound—is a balance between being very melodic on the one hand and very dense and heavy on the other. However, it isn’t as if Sievehead is alternating between the two modes, but rather doing both of these things at the same time, which is a very difficult thing to pull off. Sievehead seem like they could be one of those bands that could have some trouble finding an audience because they straddle two scenes, namely DIY punk and more melodic indie/post-punk, but for those of us who tend to be drawn to precisely the bands that blur those kinds of boundaries, Worthless Soul is an extremely worthwhile listen.

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Flasher: Winnie 7” (Sister Polygon) After an excellent debut 12” EP, Washington, DC’s Flasher are back with another smoking two-song single. While Flasher boast a member of Priests among their ranks and their records (thus far at least) have appeared on Priests’s in-house label Sister Polygon, they seem to be less grounded in DC’s history of musically and socially confrontational punk than Priests or even other associated bands like Gauche. Instead, Flasher—particularly on this single—remind me of that era of British music when the divisions between shoegaze and Britpop got a bit fuzzy and the whole thing got doused with a liberal sprinkling of 60s psych influence. The excellent b-side, “Burn Blue,” reminds me in particular of Ride with its John Lennon-esque double-tracked vocals and hazy, ecstasy-soaked groove. This type of music can lose me when it gets too droned out, but Flasher keep the hooks strong, and this EP has me eagerly anticipating whatever comes next.

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Blue Dolphin: 3 cassettes (self-released) This new Austin, Texas band (which features members of Mystic Inane, Nosferatu, and Institute) have released a series of 3 tapes over the past few months, but since we acquired them all in one batch I’ll go ahead and deal with them as a set rather than individually since, while there are differences among the three tapes, the general sound and approach are the same. The first thing that will jump out at you when you check out Blue Dolphin is the “western” style guitar lines… many of the riffs are straight up cowpunk, busting out lightning-fast series of notes that kind of sound like “Dueling Banjos,” but punk. That might sound like I’m making fun, but in practice it’s actually awesome… the pluck-y playing style actually makes the music seem faster, more intense, and more hardcore than it would otherwise, and there’s also a distinct melodic sensibility that adds a whole other dimension to these songs. This kind of cowboy punk sound isn’t exactly unprecedented in punk’s history… there are plenty of Dead Kennedys songs with a similar vibe, and a lot of parts also remind me quite a bit of the Fall’s rockabilly-inspired tunes like “Container Drivers.” However, I can’t think of too many recent bands that have a similar aesthetic, though a few tracks do utilize something like Crazy Spirit’s trademark punk shuffle beat. Another thing that keeps Blue Dolphin from sounding like straight up cowpunk is that the songs themselves seem much more grounded in a kind of outsider hardcore / punk sound. The bass often makes an uncomfortable harmonic counterpoint to the guitars, giving many of these tracks the creepy vibe of early Rudimentary Peni (or, if you’re looking for a more contemporary and/or direct reference point, Mystic Inane would do just as well). And the vocals / lyrics are quite artsy, poetic, and surreal… I have a feeling that pretty much everyone in this band can get down with Mark E. Smith’s forays into the surreal. In case you can’t read between the lines, Blue Dolphin are one of the most daring and original bands I’ve heard lately, and if that’s the kind of thing you look for I would strongly recommend checking them out.

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Nope: demo cassette (self-released) Another of those one-person punk projects that are all the rage these days, this time hailing from Winnipeg, Canada. Nope play hardcore punk with (perhaps more than) a hint of melody that retains the energy and rawness of hardcore while adding some of the simple melodic lines of classic punk like the Buzzcocks. Now, one could worry that this could start to sound like pop-punk or even Fat Wreck-style “melodic hardcore,” but Nope signal their clear allegiance to the underground with a cover of “No Hope” by Urban Waste, though they can’t help themselves from adding in a cool little melodic guitar line that doesn’t appear in the original. While I could do without the heavy echo effect on the vocals—it would be cool if the vocals could match the melodic sensibility of the guitar playing rather that just adding additional texture and rhythmic complexity—if you’re into bands like Night Birds but want to hear that sound done a little looser and rawer Nope will be right up your alley.

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Brainbombs: Inferno 12” (Skrammel) Latest 12” from this long-running Swedish group, and I must admit that I’m feeling the weight of having to write about a band with such a long history. As someone with a particular interest in bands with large discographies (the Fall ain’t my favorite group for nothing!), I know that a lot of the pleasure of following these groups is thinking about the intertextuality of their discographies… how different records pick up and drop threads of ideas from other parts of the discography. Unfortunately I’m not knowledgeable enough about Brainbombs to say much about that, but I can tell you my particular take on them. Basically, when I hear Brainbombs mentioned they tend to be spoken about as a “noise rock” band with lyrics that explore humanity’s depraved impulses and actions. and while I’m sure that attracts a certain kind of person (I, for one, have basically no interest in that kind of lyrical content and since the lyrics aren’t printed here I won’t engage with that aspect of this record), for me it downplays the thing that I find most interesting about them, which is the way that they take ideas from records like the Stooges’ Fun House and Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew, fuse them with hardcore, and update them for now. Basically, every song has a structure that’s clearly defined by the same (or at least similar) parameters as those two albums. There’s a central riff (usually consisting of just one or two chords) and the rest of the musicians do an extended jam around that basic structure. The rhythm section is that of a basic rock band, but most of the songs on Inferno also use a wah-drenched lead guitar (which sounds a lot like the Stooges) and/or a single horn player (I think it’s a trumpet, but it could be a saxophone), and whichever of these instruments is taking the lead generally pursues some kind of dissonant harmony along the lines of what late 50s / early 60s modal jazz players were interested in. However, the playing and the vibe are also overwhelmingly heavy, not in a Sunn kind of way, but more in an Amon Düül II kind of way… dense and psychedelic, like you’re on the bubble and your trip could go either way, good or bad. I’m quite sure that this isn’t for everyone, but I absolutely love staring off into space and zoning out on this kind of music, and Inferno hits my sweet spot. I’ll leave it to the Swedish punk scholars to tell you how Inferno stacks up against the rest of Brainbombs’ bulging discography, but for me it’s an absolutely exhilarating listen when taken purely on its own merits.

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All New Arrivals
Blondie: Pollinator 12" (BMG)
Institute: Subordination 12" (Sacred Bones)
Moon Duo: Killing Time (expanded edition) 12" (Sacred Bones)
All Time Low: Last Young Renegade 12" (Fueled by Ramen)
Alestorm: No Grave But the Sea 12" (Napalm)
Dan Auerbach: Waiting on a Song 12" (Nonesuch)
Beach Fossils: Somersault 12" (Bayonet)
Pustostany: 2012 12" (Sweet Rot)
Warvictims: Världsherravälde 12" (Nuclear Fear)
Bikini Kill: New Radio 12" (Bikini Kill)
Puff Pieces: Born to Die 7" (Lovitt)
Flasher: Winnie 7" (Sister Polygon)
Abner Jay: True Story 12" (Mississippi)
Various: The Rain Don't Fall on Me 12" (Mississippi)
Fred McDowell: The Alan Lomax Archives 12" (Mississippi)
Various: Ghost Woman Blues 12" (Mississippi)
Amps for Christ: Plains of Alluvial 12" (Waterwing)
Boy Wonders: Luv 12" (Resurrection)
Desperate Bicycles: Singles 12" (Euro Import)
Dead Moon: What a Way to See the Old Girl Go 12" (Voodoo Doughnut)
Birth (Defects): 2nd EP 7" (Reptilian)
USA Nails: Shame Spiral 12" (Bigout)
USA Nails: No Pleasure 12" (Bigout)
Bask: Ramble Beyond 12" (Self Aware)
Suss Cunts: 5 Song 7" (Emotional Response)
Dancer: I'm Not Giving Up b/w Teenage Punk 7" (Dig!)
Subhumans: The Day the Country Died 12" (Bluurg)
Subhumans: EPLP 12" (Bluurg)
Subhumans: From Cradle to Grave 12" (Bluurg)
Subhumans: Time Flies / Rats 12" (Bluurg)
Subhumans: Worlds Apart 12" (Bluurg)
Alain Goraguer: La Planete Sauvage OST 12" (Superior Viaduct)
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard: Flying Microtonal Banana 12" (Flightless)
Vallenfyre: Fear Those Who Fear 12" (Century Media)
Sodom: Masquerade in Blood 12" (Wax Maniax)
Exotica: Musique Exotique Vol 2 12" (La Vida Es Un Mus)
HVAC: Mentality Demo cassette (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Nekra: Demo 2017 cassette (La Vida Es Un Mus)

Restocks
Flasher: S/T 12" (Sister Polygon)
Gray Matter: Food for Thought 12" (Dischord)
SOA: First Demo 7" (Dischord)
Priests: Nothing Feels Natural 12" (Sister Polygon)
Embrace: S/T 12" (Dischord)
Minor Threat: Out of Step 12" (Dischord)
Rites of Spring: Demo 10" (Dischord)
Lungfish: Sound in Time 12" (Dischord)
Fugazi: Repeater 12" (Dischord)
Rites of Spring: S/T 12" (Dischord)
Various: Flex Your Head 12" (Dischord)
Fugazi: Red Medicine 12" (Dischord)
Faith: Subject to Change + Early Demos 12" (Dischord)
Nation of Ulysses: 13 Point Program 12" (Dischord)
Jawbox: S/T 12" (Dischord)
Bikini Kill: Revolution Girl Style Now 12" (Bikini Kill)
Bikini Kill: S/T 12" (Bikini Kill)
Dag Nasty: Can I Say 12" (Dischord)
Faith / Void: Split 12" (Dischord)
Fugazi: In on the Kill Taker 12" (Dischord)
Minor Threat; S/T 12" (Dischord)
Various: 4 Old 7"s 12" (Dischord)
Void: Sessions 12" (Dischord)
Kleenex / Liliput: First Songs 12" (Mississippi)
Dead Moon: Cracks in the System 12" (Mississippi)
Neo Boys; Sooner or Later 12" (Mississippi)
Dead Moon: Unknown Passage 12" (Mississippi)
Dead Moon: Strange Pray Tell 12" (Mississippi)
Androids of Mu: Blood Robots 12" (Waterwing)
The Sexual: Discography 12" (Euro Import)
King GIzzard & the Lizard Wizard: Nonagon Infinity 12" (ATO)
Anxiety: S/T 12" (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Crisis: Kollectiv 12" (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Es: Object Relations 12" (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Exotica: Musique Exotique Vol 1 7" (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Nurse: Discography 12" (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Bad Brains: ROIR 12" (ROIR)
The Black Keys: Chulahoma 12" (Fat Possum)
Brand New: I Am a Nightmare 12" (Brand New)
The Byrds: Sweetheart of the Rodeo 12" (Sundazed)
Darkthrone: Transylvanian Hunger 12" (Peaceville)
Death: Leprosy 12" (Relapse)
Death: Spiritual Healing 12" (Relapse)
Electric Wizard: S/T 12" (Rise)
Geto Boys: S/T 12" (Rapalot)
Ghost: Opus Eponymous 12" (Metal Blade)
Joey Bada$$: All Amerikkkan Bada$$ 12" (Cinematic)
King Diamond: Fatal Portrait 12" (Metal Blade)
King Diamond: Them 12" (Metal Blade)
Mayhem: Deathcrush 12" (Back on Black)
Modest Mouse: Sad Sappy Sucker 12" (Glacial Pace)
Modest Mouse: This Is a Long Drive 12" (Glacial Pace)
Motley Crue: Girls Girls Girls 12" (Motley)
Motley Crue: Theatre of Pain 12" (Motley)
Night Birds: Mutiny at Muscle Beach 12" (Fat Wreck)
Parquet Courts: Light Up Gold 12" (What's Your Rupture)
Jay Reatard: Blood Visions 12" (Fat Possum)
Run the Jewels: RTJ 3 12" (Mass Appeal)
Saves the Day: S/T 12" (Equal Vision)
Wolfbrigade: Run with the Hunted 12" (Southern Lord)
Revenge: Behold.Total.Rejection 12" (Nuclear War Now)

 

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