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Staff Picks: August 13, 2020

Staff Picks: Daniel

Rattus: Ihmiset On Sairaita 7” (Ann & Archie Records, 1985)

We recently nabbed a cool collection with lots of international hardcore and I made a big pile of “keepers” for myself… so big that I still feel kind of guilty about it. One of my favorites is this 1985 7” from Finland’s Rattus. Rattus is a special band to me because I got to see a few dates on their 2004 US tour and had an amazing time. While that personal connection is important, their records are incredible in their own right. They formed way back in 1978 and their early EPs are punky, catchy and fun, like a lot of other European and Scandinavian punk bands that formed in the Sex Pistols’ wake. However, when hardcore came out around, Rattus embraced it. After a string of singles and an LP, WC Räjähtää (which translates to something like “bathroom explosion” and features a memorable Pushead illustration of demons emerging from a toilet), Rattus expanded their lineup to a 4-piece. While guitarist Jake was and is a solid vocalist, there’s something about the raspy timbre of vocalist Annikki that does it for me. Besides the change in vocal sound, Rattus’s songs got faster, more complex, and more metallic, and their experience as players gave them a uniquely composed and technical sound.

Ihmiset On Sairaita features this 4-piece lineup, and while I’m fuzzy on the chronology, it may have been the first thing Annikki recorded with the band. While I love Rattus’s LPs from this period, Ihmiset On Sairaita is special in that it’s the only EP recorded with this lineup, and as is often the case with music this intense, it works better in a smaller, more digestible chunk. Even cooler is the fact that they play the three songs on the b-side as a medley, linking them with wild, out of control-sounding guitar solos. Hearing the band wander off on a Discharge-style guitar solo only to come back together and lock into step is thrilling.

While Finnish hardcore and punk records can get expensive, this one doesn’t tend to be too pricey. Alternatively, the tracks are available on the Brazilian pressing of the Uskonto On Vaara LP and many other LP and CD collections, so they shouldn’t be too hard to find. You might also recognize the first track, “Reaganin Joululanju,” from Maximumrocknroll’s Welcome to 1984 compilation. You can’t go wrong with any Rattus records you find, so if you see one, pick it up!

Staff Picks: Jeff

Krigshoder: Krig I Hodet EP cassette (Suck Blood)

It’s always a pleasant surprise when somewhere… lurking out in the ether, there are the seeds of an endeavor to create a band. Then, when that band’s first release seemingly emerges out from a veil of smoke, it totally blindsides you and you didn’t even know how bad you needed to hear it until it had magically appeared. For me, this new Krigshoder tape is checking all the boxes. Whether or not this phenomenon is a result of circumstances directly related to the pandemic, it seems like several recording projects have sprung up this year that involve people here in the States collaborating with someone that lives overseas contributing vocals. Between that Sirkka tape, the Humant Blod 7” and now this Krigshoder tape, it appears that the formula is working.

The label Suck Blood has released several tapes that I’ve thought were killer, most of which are bands from Los Angeles. If the information I’ve gathered serves me correctly, Krigshoder is made up of a few familiar faces from the Suck Blood camp along with a dude who lives in Norway. Now, whether or not this band sounds exactly like they could’ve been released on X-Port Platter could be debated. They do cover Siste Dagers Helvete who are Norwegian. That said, I think the variety of influences that can be drawn from Krigshoder’s vicious synthesis of riffs is what makes them so good. I hear a lot Aareton Joul- era Terveet Kadet but I also here the chaoticness of Italian hardcore like Declino. I’m rambling, but suffice it to say that they put all of this together to make a record that is both totally classic sounding but also refreshing and original. This recording is just perfect. It’s raw and organic, but is also played tight and perfectly. We’ve got frantic, yet tuneful and memorable riffs. Super punchy and ripping drums with drum rolls that make my teeth hurt. The vocals are probably the best part – absolutely snarling. Every song is put together with interesting and unique ideas… they play classic sounding hardcore but hit a little weirdness/noisiness from time to time. It’s not too long, it doesn’t get boring. I just have no complaints. This is a breath of fresh air. Or smog. I can’t tell the difference anymore.

Sorry State should be getting a good stack of these, so don’t sleep on them once we get them at the store!

Staff Picks: Eric

James Chance and The Contortions: Buy 12”

When I was in high school my buddy had the song “Contort Yourself” on his iPod and we would ride around in his Mom’s mini van blaring it on repeat. This record came through the store not so long ago and I had to pick it up. Speaking honestly, I have had a very hard time getting into No Wave as a genre. Listening to music with very loose structure and improvisational melodies kinda stresses me the fuck out. However, I really like The Contortions. Perhaps it’s because these songs have a solid backbone of drum and bass lines that keep everything grounded and on track. When I listen to this record I can’t help but smile a little bit. It’s got funky rhythms, free jazz style saxophone and guitar, and a punk delivery on the vocals. There is so much squanky sax in this album I think Jeff’s head would probably explode. Freaky music for freaky/artsy fucks. A classic for sure!

Staff Picks: Dominic

I’m old enough to have lived through many golden eras of music, periods where almost every release within a genre is now considered a classic. One of those golden eras was that of hip-hop. I remember vividly hearing the first tapes of this new “scratch” music in the early 80’s at school and when I started working in the States in ’89, the so called Golden Era of Hip-Hop had just begun. I recall buying The Source magazine and picking up all the latest releases. As I was working on ships during this period I was mostly buying CDs. One of my favorites and one that I still have but finally converted to vinyl is my pick for this week.
 
Marley Marl: In Control Volume II (For Your Steering Pleasure). Cold Chillin’ Records. 1991
 
Released three years after In Control Volume 1, a record which fully helped mark the beginning of that most fertile period and a record that featured the hottest New School MCs - Craig G., Master Ace, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G. Rap, Roxanne Shante and M.C. Shan- known collectively as the Juice Crew and coming out of Queensbridge, NYC. Produced by Marley Marl and released on Cold Chillin’ one of the hottest hip-hop labels, it featured the great posse cut The Symphony and the stone cold classic Droppin’ Science with rap by Craig G.

By this time, 1991, hip-hop was arguably the most original and exciting form of music being made and I can remember being particularly pumped when I saw this album had come out. It reunited the Juice Crew rappers for The Symphony, Pt II and also brought in a lot of newer names that I did not know and some others that I did. The album also played more like a mix tape or radio show with the different MCs and samples used in the production. Some of the tracks, Buffalo Soldier and Fools In Love have a reggae dancehall vibe to them and overall the production has great sample hooks and beats. There is also a contemporary New Jack Swing sound on the cut Reach Out featuring a R ‘n B style vocal. If that was almost too soft for you, follow up track Keep Control featuring Chubb Rock, Def Jef, Tragedy and Grand Puba comes off sounding more like a Public Enemy track. In fact, Chuck D. himself does show up on the record and is featured on America Eats The Young, a cut whose title tells you what to expect.

For me, one of the tunes that still stands out is Cheatin’ Days Are Over which has a great production and features a name I know not much about on the rap, Mike Nice. Whoever he was, he was nice on this.
Probably compared side by side, most people would give the edge to Volume One as far as classic status goes but I think if not a classic, Volume Two is definitely a good record and one that has held up for what is now almost thirty years. I had always hoped to find a vinyl version but oddly it took me quite a while to find one, mostly due to the fact that it only came out as a promo in a plain white sleeve and never received a full vinyl release. It was a nice surprise to finally score a copy and as Ava and I had been talking about 90’s New York Hip-Hop and how I lived a few blocks from Queensbridge while in NYC, it seemed like a good time to pick this gem for recommendation.





Staff Picks: Usman

To start, the label that released this cassette sold out before Sorry State could get distro copies! But, I have a handful of copies, and also a few Vivisected Numbskulls tapes left for distro - which are also now sold out from the label and Sorry State. Feel free to hit me up for distro stuff at in.decay@yahoo.com. I've wanted to write about this release for my previous two Staff Picks but I wanted to have the copies in my hands before I wrote. You never know what the end result might be when dealing with cassettes, or almost any release really. This cassette is brought to you by Outsider Classics, who also did badass re-issues likes Cólera, Nisses Nötter, and Missbrukarna. I think I’ve mentioned Asta Kask several times already in the handful of Staff Picks I've written. I assume everyone knows who Asta Kask is who is reading this so I will do my best to keep it interesting. Please, no shame if you don't know this band. I hate that hierarchal mindset some “punks” have when it comes to knowing about bands. I’ve always heard Asta Kask were the pioneers of trallpunk (a melodic, Swedish style of HC/punk), but from my understanding trallpunk was not coined until the 90's, over a decade after the band had formed. They are from a small town in Sweden called Töreboda. When I say this town is small, I mean like less than 5,000 people small. Imagine Pittsboro, NC. On a map it also looks like there’s nothing going on there too, just like Pittsboro (aside from the beautiful land.) It's kind of strange to imagine an excellent band like this coming from a small town where no other notable bands came from, but at the same time I feel like that is common in the USA. But this is probably worth noting, I’m still looking on a map and guess what city is almost right the middle of Stockholm and Gothenburg? Yup, it's Töreboda. And it looks like you literally have to pass right through it to travel between those two major cities… that had to have played a role.
 
Asta-Kask originally formed as X-tas in 1978, playing Sex Pistols cover songs. Their first actual release was in 1982, För Kung Och Fosterland. It was really well-received internationally at the time, but the band had broken up before the EP was actually released. In 1983, the vocalist/guitarist Micke re-formed the band with a new-line up and recorded En Tyst Minut... (That title translates to 'a minute of silence...' I wonder if that was related to the break-up of the band.) This new line-up is the same one the band would stick with until their end of days. I do want to note there was a compilation tape Anarkist Attack that was released in 1982 (I think) that features a great deal of Asta Kask tracks. There are many songs on there I don’t recognize, but there are certainly some songs that appear on later releases with new recordings. It makes me wonder if Micke had wrote a shit ton of songs early on and really didn’t want to abandon them, hence the reformation of the band with a new line up. Another even more important note, Micke Blomqvist operated his own recording studio through the 80’s called Kloakens Alternativa Antistudio. This person deserves so much credit…at his studio legendary bands like Nyx Negative, Crude SS, Asocial, Svart Parad, Anti-Cimex, Avskum, and Rövsvett have all recorded. Anyway, in 1984 En Tyst Minut...was released but they were so on top of their shit that they had already recorded for their next record Plikten Framför Allt, which was released later that same year. After three EPs they released Med Is I Magen in 1985. I think this LP is the most renowned of their releases, but my favorite stuff is their EPs, especially the ones that came out in 1984. Still in 1985, they recorded for their next EP Än Finns Det Hopp. They were keeping it steady at the time, visiting the studio regularly and playing gigs throughout Sweden. But the next year would be the bands “final” years active. In 1986 they visited the studio to record Aldrig En LP and embarked on their first international tour. I’m not sure how long the tour was, or what cities they hit, but they toured Germany with Upright Citizens. I don’t know anything about why the band broke-up, but maybe it was subsequent to their tour. Although the band did call it quits in 1986, they have reformed several times since then (1989, 1992, 2003, etc.) This tape features their EP collection plus an additional track that wasn’t originally released with the EP. You can find these EPs for about $30 (haha although some of the first presses go for much more.) They are relatively affordable, but it’s really cool to have ‘em all compiled onto a cassette – you don’t have to flip shit nearly as often, and it saves you like $100. Cheers to Outsider Classics! And, thanks for reading..til next time.


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