Featured Releases: April 14, 2023
Glittering Insects: S/T 12” (Total Punk Records) I love the conceit of Total Punk’s sub-label Mind Meld, which releases records by punk luminaries working outside the boundaries of their main projects. This latest release by Glittering Insects is the creative core of one of our favorite current bands at Sorry State, Atlanta’s GG King, jamming out in their studio without whatever limitations shape the records they release under the GG King umbrella. Not that GG King isn’t a wide net… from almost the very beginning, their records have featured experiments in noise, black metal, hip-hop, and other unexpected genres, but under the Glittering Insects moniker, they let the members’ creativity run wild. The results are just fantastic… I had high hopes for this record given how much I love GG King, and it surpassed all of them. Like GG King’s records, it’s hard to pin down. The music is layered, with competing melodies, textures, and rhythms pulling in different directions. I love records like this that are a feast for the ears, and while there’s something to be said for the more straightforward pop approach that GG King also excels at, I love to put on a record like this, smoke a big ‘ol doob, and get lost in it. At different points, Glittering Insects might remind you of many similarly ambitious rock bands… Can, the Fall, Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth, Stereolab, Slint, My Bloody Valentine… as with those bands, the scope is wide and the well of ideas is deep. Pick this up and let it take you on a journey.
Banshee: Breakdown 7” (Urbain Grandier Records) Canadian label Urbain Grandier reissues this scorching slice of Canadian metal history. Released in 1983 and collectible ever since, the original pressing of “Breakdown” will run you a couple hundred bucks, and this reissue presents the original track listing and layout with an additional insert and liner notes. While “Breakdown” is from Canada in 1983, the a-side sounds like the UK circa 1979, and you could slot it into any comp of vintage NWBOHM pounders and no one would bat an eye… it just has that sound, and if you’re a fan of early Def Leppard, Diamond Head, Blitzkrieg, and the like, you’re gonna like it. The b-side is cool too, but rather than the upbeat NWOBHM of the a-side, it sounds more indebted to Rainbow. A hot single, and I’m sure metalheads the world over are stoked to have an accessible, well-done official reissue.
Various: Invasion 88 12” (Fuego a las Fronteras) Fuego a las Fronteras brings us another high-quality reissue, this time of the 1988 Argentine punk compilation Invasion 88. While Invasion 88 came out in 1988, it documents ten bands from the Argentine punk scene that existed between 1984 and 1988, so it takes in earlier eras of the punk scene. Actually, most of the bands here have 70s punk sound, taking inspiration from bands like the Clash, though including straight edge band Division Autista proves Argentina wasn’t cut off from what was happening in the rest of the world in the late 80s. Each of the 10 bands get two tracks, and I wouldn’t call any of them a dud, though standouts for me include Division Autista’s chaotic-sounding melodic hardcore, the all-woman band Exeroica, and the blistering Partisans-esque track “Ratis” by Defensa Y Justicia, a short-lived offshoot of Attaque 77 (who is also on the compilation). The music is great, but as with Fuego a las Fronteras, the package is full of material that deepens the listener’s engagement with and appreciation of the music. The original pressing of Invasion 88 came with a booklet insert with information and lyrics from all the bands, and this reissue expands that booklet to include English translations of all of this material without disrupting the original’s aesthetic. Additionally, this version comes with a DVD featuring a full-length documentary about the compilation, Heroxs Del 88. While I haven’t watched the whole thing yet (though it’s at the top of my to-do list!), the trailer makes it look like American Hardcore for 80s Argentine punk. A historically important record reissued with a ton of cool extras for a great price… what more could a punk want?
XV: On the Creekbeds on the Thrones 12” (Gingko Records) On the Creekbeds on the Thrones is the second album from Michigan’s XV. XV’s first album looms large in my consciousness… I didn’t hear about it until a year after it came out, but once I heard it, I couldn’t stop listening. (You can read the staff pick in which I raved about it here.) Perhaps it’s because I listen to so much hardcore, but XV’s music felt like the perfect counterpoint to my usual listening diet, like a yoga position that pulls your limbs in the opposite of your habitual direction and releases a flood of endorphins. Whereas hardcore is tightly structured, aggressive, heavy, and (often, at least) macho, XV’s music is feminine, loose, and airy, seeming to drift in and out of existence like some kind of wood nymph. On the Creekbeds on the Thrones picks up where the band’s first album left off... like that record, it feels like a glimpse into someone else’s consciousness. XV has called their music “free punk,” and like free jazz it eschews the rigidity of structure that almost all other punk music takes as a given. Take a track like “Tasmanian Angels,” which starts off as a ramshackle, Television Personalities-style twee punk tune, but over the course of its three minutes unravels into a vaguely Eastern-sounding jam that could be an outtake from one of the Velvet Underground’s first two albums or even one of Alice Coltrane’s early solo records. Throughout the album, XV floats between more “rock” moments and passages that are freer (and usually quieter), but it feels less like changing gears and more like a natural process such as evaporation or freezing, happening so incrementally that you can’t pinpoint when it moves from one mode to another. I can see someone—especially someone who doesn’t feel like they need a counterpoint to the punk that dominates their soundtrack—finding this aimless, or even finding stream-of-consciousness lyrics to songs like “Pen” and “Fresh Lettuce” too artless. For me, though, XV’s music transports me somewhere no other band can take me.
Histeria: Discografía 12” (Fuego a las Fronteras) This release collects the 1985 and 1986 demos from this Mexican punk band. I knew of Histeria more than I knew them… I can’t remember where I’ve checked them out in the past, but I knew their material was very raw and lo-fi. That is indeed the case, but Fuego a las Fronteras and Bam Bam Records illustrate how a well-done reissue can give you a new appreciation for a band. Like the labels’ other reissues, this comes with a full-color booklet in both English and Spanish, which tells the band’s story and provides lyrics and graphics from the band’s original era, including a full reproduction of a very rare illustrated lyric booklet that only came with a handful of original copies. I listened to the record before I read the booklet, and it surprised me how much the 1985 demo reminded me of European hardcore… these recordings sound a lot like early Wretched, whom Histeria covers on their 1986 demo. Early Mexican punk has a reputation for being raw and chaotic in much the same way early Italian hardcore does, and that comes across here. Weirdly, the 1986 demo sounds even more lo-fi and crazier, though I think some of what made that 1985 demo so special gets lost in the lower fidelity. As for the booklet, it just pulled me into the band’s world so effectively… I’m very thankful for it. Histeria’s lyrics are great (and filled with the same radical politics you get from a lot of European punk), and learning about the conditions under which they made these recordings was powerful. When they recorded the first tape, only the drummer owned equipment, so they rehearsed with whatever they could borrow. And that rawer second demo? They recorded it with a tape recorder strapped to the singer’s chest to get his un-amplified voice closer to the microphone while he stood surrounded by the rest of the band. You don’t get more punk than that. Again, I’m so thankful for Fuego la Frontera’s excellent reissue, which allows me to appreciate Histeria in a way that I never could have gotten from a shitty YouTube rip of their tapes.
Caverna: Nueva Paz 12” (Discos Enfermos) The Spanish label Discos Enfermos once again dips into Bogotá, Colombia’s fertile punk scene for the debut record from Caverna. If that sentence doesn’t perk up your ears, you need to do some research, because Colombia has been producing great bands at a faster clip than pretty much anywhere in the world for the past several years. While the bands range in styles, the most notable ones share a raw aesthetic and a knack for capturing passionate, explosive performances in their recordings. (As well as live, based on the handful of bands I’ve been able to see.) Caverna is a perfect example of what I associate with that scene. Their style is a straightforward iteration of UK82 punk, built around driving, straightforward drums and anthemic, chanted choruses. The singer sounds a bit like Eddie from Vaaska to me, with a raspy snarl that’s just a little snotty. And while there are innovative moments, it’s not about being clever, it’s about using the music as a kind of ritual that summons something bigger than itself. As a (shamefully) monolingual person who only speaks English, there’s a whole element of Caverna’s expression that’s opaque to me, but I’d like to think it comes across in the blazing intensity I feel when I listen to this record. A real scorcher.