Featured Release Roundup: May 23, 2019

Condor: SIngles 2017-2018 12” (Beach Impediment) Condor is a one-man project by Maxime from Rixe, and this debut vinyl collects two cassingles released over the past two years. If you’re skeptical about the whole demo-on-vinyl thing, let me assure you that the music collected here is among the most memorable and exciting punk music to come through here as of late. When I first heard Condor I wondered why they were a new project because they didn’t seem that different from Rixe; both are oi! bands that sing in French and are indebted to their country’s long tradition of oi! music. However, aside from two fast, Partisans-style UK82 tracks, Condor distinguish themselves from Rixe by being much more melodic. While the vocals are still gruff, the bass and guitar carry a lot more melody than they do in Rixe. Nowhere is this clearer than on the standout track, “Chacun Pour Soi,” which has not one but two classic melodic lead riffs. These riffs are so catchy that I could imagine them being used in a 90s melodic hardcore song by a band like Ten Foot Pole or Good Riddance, but you won’t find any clicky kick drum or whiny vocals here. I’ve loved everything Rixe has put out, but this Condor stuff might be even better.

Institute: Readjusting the Locks 12” (Sacred Bones) Latest 12” EP from this now-veteran punk band. While I’m suspicious of newer bands playing in a post-punk style, Institute never seem like a throwback. They always push their sound forward in interesting ways and always have intriguing lyrics that tackle contemporary topics rather than collaging together tropes from old records. While Institute’s previous record, 2017’s Subordination, was their most ambitious release, Readjusting the Locks is, on the whole, a more straightforward rock / punk-oriented record. When I imagine Institute’s guitar sound, I think of something like the snaky melodic lines of Zounds or Crisis, but most of the songs on Readjusting the Locks rely heavily on power chords. When combined with their loose and swingy drumming, this choice gives many of these tracks a Kinks-esque garage flavor. While this sound is new for Institute, it’s not the record’s only mode. There are also tracks like the hardcore of “St. John’s Wort” and the closer “Deadlock,” the most melodic Institute song to date. I wouldn’t call Readjusting the Locks my favorite Institute record, but they remain one of the most interesting and vital bands in the current punk scene, and everything they do is well worth your attention, this release included.

Game: No One Wins 12” (Beach Impediment) After a flexi in 2017, London’s Game offer up their debut full-length. While Game’s flexi felt like an homage to mid to late 80s Japanese hardcore, No One Wins is a more distinctive and confident statement. Japanese hardcore is still an influence, but aside from the strong Death Side vibes on the closing “Foundation & Empire,” these tracks employ a more metallic riffing style reminiscent of Gastunk and Sacrilege. While the riffs are metallic, the songs are dense and ripping, making this a hardcore punk record through and through. Another way in which Game come into their own on No One Wins is Ola’s vocal style. Like the music, it’s a hardcore punk style, but there’s something about her phrasing and pronunciation that sound like no one else. Unique, creative, aggressive, great sound and packaging… what more can you ask of a hardcore punk record?

Witchtrial: S/ T 12” (Beach Impediment) After their earlier demo-pressed-to-vinyl here’s a proper debut from DC’s Witchtrial. Witchtrial came out of the gate sounding fully formed on that demo, so it’s no surprise that not a lot has changed on this record, which is great news if you were already a fan. While Witchtrial draws their membership from DC’s fertile hardcore punk scene, they sound like a full-on metal band. I’m sure the members all like looser and punkier metal bands like Hellhammer and Bathory, but Witchtrial doesn’t sound like those bands. I hear little of the grime I associate with death, thrash, black, or other established extreme metal subgenres here either. The songs are mid-paced, complex but not ornate or technical, and played with a precision that approaches clinical. If you can imagine a heavier, tougher version of early 80s Judas Priest played by people who probably own Age of Quarrel, you’re in the ballpark. I wish the band would cut loose and rip a little harder, but if you like your metal dense, precise, and sophisticated you’ll enjoy this.

Mati: S/ T 7” (self-released) Debut 7” from this New York City hardcore band, and it is a ripper. Mati has an aggressive metallic punk sound that sounds like Warthog leaning into their Scandinavian Jawbreaker-era Anti-Cimex influence. The sound is big and heavy and there’s a lot of blistering palm muting and the occasional short guitar solo, but the riffs themselves tend toward the simple and catchy rather than the ornate and technical. The straightforwardness isn’t about cutting corners, but about achieving the maximum level of blunt force impact. Crushing.

LBB: Popped Music 12” (Iron Lung) Iron Lung has a habit of pushing at the edges of what we think of as hardcore punk music, but this disc from LBB is a departure even by the label’s already wide-open standards. From the label’s description, the group improvised the music on these two vinyl sides in real time (they list the instruments as cello, pedal steel, sampler, and computer) and ran them through additional processing afterward. While you might hear the occasional scrape of a cello’s bow or a plucked string, mostly the noises you’ll hear are indiscernible thumps and knocks mixed with Eno / Tangerine Dream-esque swells of pure tone, any or all of which might be run through echo, delay, or other effects. Popped Music sounds like the music you’d hear in the video projection room of a modern art gallery while you watch a grainy and abstract film. It feels fluid and structureless, as sounds, rhythms, and melodies drift into and across one another. It’s a little unsettling, but it’s also gripping from moment to moment, even on repeated listens. This is not for everyone and it’s certainly not hardcore punk, but I love it. If you consider yourself on the more adventurous end of Iron Lung’s audience there’s a good chance you’ll love it too.

Scrap Brain: Journey Into Madness 12” (Thrilling Living / Drunken Sailor) After an earlier 7” we get a debut full-length from the UK’s Scrap Brain. I was interested in Scrap Brain’s previous 7”, but I never gave it time to sink in. In retrospect, I think the 12” format might be the most appropriate place for Scrap Brain’s dense and wide-reaching music, as it not only allows the band to cover more musical ground but also gives the listener more time to sink deeper into the band’s well of grime. And boy is this record grimy! Scrap Brain’s base mode of operation is a Flipper-inspired lurch, but they rarely just do that. Instead, they augment things with a catchy guitar riff or bass line, unexpected tempo changes (sometimes speeding up to blistering hardcore tempos), and envelop everything in a swirl of chaotic noise that keeps my ear interested even though it’s nothing one might describe as a riff or a melody. It’s not unlike what Violence Creeps did, but noisier, darker, and more frightening. Scrap Brain also have a lot of what I’ll call “expressionistic hardcore” in their sound. I’m thinking of bands like Neon and Mozart who can abandon conventional rhythm and melody, engaging instead in the spontaneous and physical eruption of energy I associate with the most out-there free jazz. Scrap Brain sound like a punk band trying to do a musical version of an abstract expressionist painting, and I love it. Even more impressive is that Scrap Brain can reel it back in and build a more structured context around those moments of pure expression. Journey Into Madness is a wild ride and occasionally a tough listen, but if you like the bands I’ve mentioned, you might be one of the few who can get down with this.

Juma: Selected Works 12” (Bitter Lake) Double LP compiling tracks from presumably obscure early 80s cassette releases by this Japanese project. Juma is right in Bitter Lake’s wheelhouse, playing an out-there and experimental blend of post-punk, Krautrock, no wave, and new age-inspired music. Across Selected Works‘ two LPs you’ll hear everything from new age-y song-oriented material to harsh, grating noise. In fact, when I was listening to the record’s first side-long track, “Enigma,” my girlfriend made me turn it off because one of the main instruments makes a scraping noise that may or may not be actual nails on a chalkboard. I can understand why you wouldn’t want to have that noise foisted upon you, but I was digging the track hard, particularly the trippy, Krautrock-inspired groove underneath the relentless scraping. Fortunately the rest of Selected Works is easier on the ears, exploring the repetitive rhythms and interesting sonic textures I love to zone out to. While this might be one of the most out there releases on Bitter Lake so far, it may well also be my favorite one yet.

All New Arrivals

Condor: Singles 2017-2018 12" (Beach Impediment)
Game: No One Wins 12" (Beach Impediment)
Witchtrial: S/T 12" (Beach Impediment)
Institute: Readjusting the Locks 12" (Sacred Bones)
Mati: S/T 7" (self-released)
Idiota Civilizzato: S/T (tour edition) 12" (Static Shock)
Idiota Civilizzato: Civilta Idiota (tour edition) 7" (Static Shock)
Itchy Bugger: S/T cassette (Little Winners)
Goose: S/T cassette (Little Winners)
Jay & Yuta: Condemned Compilations cassette (Little Winners)
LBB: Popped Music 12" (Iron Lung)
C.H.E.W.: Feeding Frenzy cassette (Iron Lung)
Juma: Selected Works 2x12" (Bitter Lake)
Scrap Brain: A Journey into Madness 12" (Thrilling Living)
Norms: Hülye Hardcore 12" (Mindig Otthon Punk Discs)
Harry Manfredini: Friday the 13th OST 12" (Waxwork)
Goblin: Suspiria 12" (AMS)
Terry Funk: Tougher than Shoe Leather 12" (Flannelgraph)
Various: Outro Tempo 1978-1992 12" (Music From Memory)
Alessandro Alessandroni: Prisma Sonoro 12" (Roundtable)
Pandit Kanwar Sain Trikha: Three Sitar Pieces 12" (Manufactured)
The Head and the Heart: Living Mirage 12" (Warner Bros)
Weezer: The Teal Album 12" (Crush Music)
The National: I Am Easy to Find 12" (4AD)
Interpol: A Fine Mess 12" (Matador)
Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising 12” (Sub Pop)


Gai: Rock N Roll History Fuck Off 12" (Gai Best Punk Band)
BB & The Blips: Shame Job 12" (Thrilling Living)
Rashomon: Pathogen X 12" (Iron Lung)
L'Amour: Look to the Artist 1978-1981 12" (Beach Impediment)
Various: Bloodstains Across Virginia 12" (new)
Vaaska: Futuro Primitivo 7" (Beach Impediment)
Stigmatism: S/T 7" (Beach Impediment)
Vaaska: Inocentes Condenados 7" (Beach Impediment)
Fried Egg: Back and Forth 7" (Beach Impediment)
Long Knife: Sewers of Babylon 7" (Beach Impediment)
Lord Huron: Lonesome Dreams 12" (I Am Sound)
Slayer: Seasons in the Abyss 12" (American)
Smashing Pumpkins: Gish 12" (Caroline)
XXXTentacion: 17 12" (Bad Vibes Forever)
Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon 12" (Sony)
Pink Floyd: Meddle 12" (Parlophone)
Taking Back Sunday: Twenty 12" (Craft)
Miles Davis: Kind of Blue 12" (Columbia Legacy)
Alice in Chains: Dirt 12" (Music On Vinyl)
Dangerdoom: The Mouse & The Mask 12" (Lex)
Tool: Opiate 12" (BMG)
Nirvana: Live at the Paramount 12" (Geffen)
Aerosmith: Permanent Vacation 12" (Geffen)
Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy 12" (Roc-A-Fella)
Brand New: The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me 12" (Interscope)
Angel Du$t: Pretty Buff 12" (Roadrunner)
Black Keys: Rubber Factory 12" (Fat Possum)
Circle Jerks: Group Sex 12" (Frontier)
AC/DC: Highway to Hell 12" (Atlantic)
The Gaslight Anthem: The ‘59 Sound 12" (Side One Dummy)
Queens of the Stone Age: Rated R 12" (Interscope)
Beastie Boys: Licensed to Ill 12" (Def Jam)
Arcade Fire: Arcade Fire EP 12" (Legacy)
Primus: Pork Soda 12" (Interscope)
Miles Davis: Bitches Brew 2x12" (Columbia Legacy)
Mercyful Fate: Into the Unknown 12" (Metal Blade)
Mac Demarco: Here Comes the Cowboy 12" (Macs)
Danny Brown: Atrocity Exhibition 12" (Fool’s Gold)
N.W.A.: Straight Outta Compton 12" (Priority)
Misfits: Walk Among Us 12" (Caroline)
Ramones: Leave Home 12" (Rhino)
Motorhead: Sacrifice 12" (BMG)


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