Featured Releases - October 7 2021
Koma: Internment Failure 12” (La Vida Es Un Mus) I’ve been listening to this first LP from the UK’s Koma all week, and I feel like I’m only just finding my way into it. I had been listening to the record on streaming while taking walks in the warm (i.e. not unbearably hot) fall North Carolina weather, and the album’s subtleties have interesting corollaries with change from summer into winter, which seems to happen fast by the standards of geological time, but as a human you need patience to see and appreciate it. Things clicked for Koma when I sat down with the vinyl, as they do with a lot of records. The dense, monochromatic illustration on the cover where there are distinct skeletal shapes, but it’s tough to tell where one element ends and another begins; the dimly lit band photo on the back cover where you can only just discern human shapes in a dark, medieval-looking building; the murky production that refuses to cede attention to any one element, a writhing sonic morass; the fractured lyrics that touch on themes like isolation and the supernatural, but resist efforts to wrench easily summarizable meaning from them… Koma’s sound and visual aesthetic are woven from the same cloth. Their music feels introverted, troubled, even hard to listen to at times, which is a strange emotional register for hardcore to occupy. And Koma is hardcore… loud, fast, and heavy, but with none of the grandstanding or feel-good vibes you get from other points on the genre’s lengthy continuum. It might not be for everyone, but it’s a powerful statement.
The Freakees: Freakee Deakee 7” (House of Timothy) Freakee Deakee is the latest release from this prolific punk/garage band from Los Angeles, and it’s an all-analog production with no computers used at any point in recording or manufacturing the record. I don’t think I’d heard the Freakees before (though Sorry State has their earlier split 7” with Launcher in stock), and I’d describe their sound as restless and raw, but tuneful and memorable. The Freakees remind me of the Reatards in that the songs have a straightforward rock and roll / garage foundation, but they’re performed with a sense of total abandon. Listening to a ripper like “Republicans,” I imagine the singer starting the song with an ill-advised face-first stage dive, then climbing back onstage to perform the rest of the song through a veil of blood. Freakee Deakee drips with this don’t-give-a-fuck energy, at least until the last track, “Freakee Friday,” which careens into a stumbling, post-Funhouse druggy haze. If you like your rock and roll raw, loose, and visceral, this one’s for you.
Bad Anxiety: demo cassette (Earth Girl Tapes) Hattiesburg, Mississippi’s Earth Girl Tapes brings us the 4-song demo tape from Bad Anxiety. Bad Anxiety is another one of those projects where one person plays every instrument, and the person in question here is Hampton, who also plays in Judy & the Jerks and a bunch of other Hattiesburg groups. The sound is full-bore hardcore punk with an emphasis on high energy and catchy songwriting. I hear a lot of Circle Jerks in Bad Anxiety’s sound (perhaps because “Police” bears more than a passing resemblance to “Red Tape”), but the vocals are snotty and carry a touch of melody. Maybe it’s because I just spun this record the other day, but the vocals remind me of Lumpy’s in Cal and the Calories, though the music is more akin to Fried E/M’s blistering hardcore. The first three tracks are sub-1 minute sprints, with the EP ending on a (comparatively) mid-paced note with “Big City,” a more rocking track with great, sarcastic lyrics that sounds like something the Controllers or Angry Samoans might have come up with. This would have made for a killer 7”, but this limited-to-100 cassette will have to do.
General Speech #10 zine I often say I’ll read pretty much anything having to do with punk, but a lot of the things I read—zines, books, or stuff on the web—are of poor quality, often with shoddy research, poor copy editing, and ugly and/or non-functional graphic design. General Speech is impeccable in these respects, an underground punk zine crafted with the obvious care and attention to detail that one usually has to shell out a bunch of money to a team of professionals to get. As note-perfect as General Speech might be in these respects, it still strikes me as the purest expression of the concept of the music fanzine that you can find in the punk underground. While most zines adopt, to some extent or another, the tropes of mainstream music publications, the editor Tom’s passion for music seems to be the guiding principle for what lands in General Speech. Tom revels in the details, both the small details of better-known releases and the minutiae of lesser-known punk. For instance, the biggest bands featured in this issue are probably the Damned and Chaos UK, but the articles delve deep into the recesses of those bands’ stories. The article on the Damned is a lengthy feature on Tom’s favorite non-album tracks, while the Chaos UK feature is an interview with the photographer who took the photo on the cover of the band’s Short, Sharp Shock album. Elsewhere in the mag there are features on the obscure Japanese cassette label X.A. Record, the Chilean band Ignorantes, and older groups Fallout, Six Minute War, and Private Jesus Detector. These interviews are rich in detail, Tom’s obsessiveness well matched with the interview subjects’ candor. The cover star and centerpiece of the issue is a long interview with Mune from Paintbox, and while many western publications that attempt to interview Japanese punk bands have trouble penetrating the language and cultural barriers, this interview is gripping for anyone deeply into Japanese hardcore. The writing in General Speech is beyond reproach, but the visuals are just as good, with Tom’s collection of punk ephemera and unimpeachable graphic design skills proving to be an unfuckwithable combo. If you’re anything like me, you’ll pore over every inch of this fanzine and return to it again and again. Totally essential.
Nekropolis Iluzija: S/T cassette (Doomed to Extinction Records) Nekropolis Iluzija self-describes this release as anti-war and anti-military themed. And at first glance, this cassette’s bleak, black and grey cover art along with peace punk symbolism led me to assume that this tape would sound like crust punk. But within 10 seconds of hearing the first song, it was clear that rather than guitar-heavy crust, this tape is a synth-laden electronic project. While this band is based out of San Francisco, none of the lyrics are in English. I believe the band’s name translates to “Necropolis Illusion” from Croatian, which is fitting, because their sound is totally reminiscent of 80s Eastern European coldwave and post-punk. The sparse, cold, but decidedly musical song structures are well crafted, and dense with electronic textures that feel authentically vintage. This tape sounds like a tribute to 80s minimal synth and coldwave that is so well done that it’s almost surgical. The lo-fi, mechanical drum machine is drenched in sweeping, high-pitched synth melodies that sit blaringly loud in the mix. While I don’t understand the words, the vocals are the focal point and have some surprising moments where they shift from restrained invariability to spine-chilling whispers to intense aggression. They sneak in an interesting cover version of a song by Serbian hardcore band Proces, which is a cool little thematic nod to the Yugo area. A must have for those anticipating the stark cold of winter.
DShK: Power for Them, Pennies for You cassette (Bitter Melody Records) Five-song demo from this project based in Asheville, North Carolina. DShK formed during lockdown as a response to the anger and frustration the surrounding events provoked, and the feeling is palpable… there’s an undeniable electricity running through these songs. The Herätys cover is a nice tip of the hat, as DShK has a similar knack for fusing inventive, complex riffing with a sonic template that leaves room for nothing but total assault. Fans of modern mangel, this is right up your alley. I’m unclear whether DShK is a continuing concern or just a onetime thing, but I hope they stick around because this rips.