Featured Release Roundup: October 31, 2019
Sunn O))): Pyroclasts 12” (Southern Lord) I should preface this by saying that I am hardly an expert on Sunn. While I’ve listened to them over the years and enjoyed it, I couldn't tell you how Pyroclasts differs from any of the other records in their extensive catalog or what it brings to the table that's new. However, I can tell you I like Pyroclasts. As ever, I appreciate Sunn on two levels. The first is a visceral level; I love how their music seems to bypass my ears and go straight to my gut. Even more than something like Black Sabbath, they make music that you feel in your bowels, and there’s a physical pleasure in turning up the volume loud and letting it wash over you. However, I also appreciate Sunn on a conceptual level. I love how Sunn distills their music to pure sound. It reminds me that much of what I think about in music—rhythms, harmonies, melodies—is abstract and intellectual. Sunn seems to ask, “what is music anyway?” If you’re a Sunn dabbler like me, Pyroclasts is a solid pickup as it provides what I want from a Sunn record, and its meticulous production (recorded by Steve Albini and pressed with an all-analogue process, unlike 99.9% of the records produced today) ensures that it’s as warm, rich, and clear as it can be. Also, this limited pink vinyl pressing is a benefit for Gilda’s Club NYC, an organization that provides community support for both those diagnosed with cancer and their caretakers.
Foster Care: El Abuso 12” (Total Punk) Third 12” from this New York band (their second for Total Punk), and holy crap does it rip! Total Punk has always dabbled in hardcore with releases by bands like Lysol and Beta Boys, but El Abuso might be the most ripping thing the label has ever put its name on. While you would expect some complexity and maturity from a band on its third 12” release, Foster Care has stripped everything to the bone here, paring their music to its skeleton: simple riffs, relentless beats, and crazed shouting. Hardcore these day carries decades of history with it and there is a host of unwritten rules about how bands should do things, but El Abuso sounds like the early Discharge singles, Finnish hardcore by bands like Kaaos and Destrucktions, and the primal rage-outs of Swedes like Mob 47 and Shitlickers, bands that threw out the rulebook and went straight for the throat. The sound is raw, blown out, and in the red. The only concession to anything other than raging is the (compelling) bits of abstract noise and tape manipulation that link some tracks. Forget breakdowns, metallic riffing, guitar solos, shoelace headbands, pedalboards, and all of that nonsense. This is 100% pure hardcore punk.
Syphilitic Vaginas: Complete Studio Collection 12” (Nuclear War Now!) This double LP collection brings together a bunch of the Syphilitic Vaginas’ EP recordings and is essentially a vinyl pressing of a 2008 compilation LP. If you haven’t heard Syphilitic Vaginas, their name is a good sign of where they’re coming from. G.I.S.M. is a big influence given the melodic lead guitars, raw hardcore production and presentation style, and the general sense of weirdness, but there are also big dollops of NOWBHM-influenced catchiness and Midnight-style sleaze rock and a bit of black metal gloom rounding out the sound. The mastering here sounds great, and the packaging is gorgeous, if light on information. G.I.S.M. worship is its own cottage industry these days, but these folks are at the very front of the pack.
Fried E/M: tour tape (self-released) St. Louis’s Fried E/M released this four track tape in a very limited quantity for their recent southeastern US tour. These tracks are preliminary recordings for an LP that may see the light of day sooner or later on some label or another. I hope it does, because I’m digging this tape. The lineup features Lumpy (on drums) and at least one former Dumper, but Fried E/M has a more straightforward sound, a rough and street-level take on classic punk. The riffs are pure rock-and-roll, but the recording and presentation are super gritty and the vocals are mean but charismatic and clearly enunciated. They remind me of early Kraut or DOA’s best songs in the way they take a Pistols and Damned approach and drag it through the mud. This is worth some listens while we wait for the LP to drop.
Arse: Safe Word 7” (Erste Theke Tonträger) Debut 7” from this band from Sydney, Australia. If I had to guess, though, I would have thought Arse was from the UK as they have a similar noise rock meets hardcore sound to bands like Bad Breeding, No Negative, and Denim and Leather. The label describes their sound as broadly in the tradition of Black Flag’s My War, and given that record set the template for noise rock, I’d say we’re more or less on the same page here. The sound is heavy, desperate, and grinding, the tempo never exceeding a jaunt. My favorite moments are when you get some skronky lead guitar (as on the closer, “Stooged”), but the whole thing is an exciting listen.
Wild Rose: Cosmic Miasma 7” (Infinite Repeats) Debut vinyl from this band out of Charlottesville, Virginia, whose demo tape we carried a while back. You hear little about bands from Charlottesville (though there are a few, and Wild Rose share a drummer with Richmond’s Fried Egg), but I love great bands from smaller scenes. You can always tell they’re doing it for the right reasons, and they often have a left of center sound that isn’t as common among bands from major metropolitan areas, who (in my experience at least), often hew closer to an established formula. Wild Rose is a case in point, as their amped-up punk songs aren’t quite hardcore, they’re shot through with walking bass lines and classic rock-inspired riffage, and their singer can’t really sing but belts it out with an intensity and conviction that you can’t help but love. As on their earlier tape, there’s something about Wild Rose’s music that reminds me of the Descendents’ Milo Goes to College album, but I can’t put my finger on what that is. Maybe it’s the melodic bass? Regardless, give this a spin if you’re into under the radar punk that ignores the big city rulebook.