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Staff Picks: July 23, 2020

Staff Picks: Daniel

Nico: Drama of Exile LP (1981)

A year or so ago I was listening to Henry Rollins’ radio show on KCRW and he played “Genghis Khan,” the opening track from Drama of Exile, and it just blew me away. I’d heard some of Nico’s other solo material in passing and I know the Velvet Underground pretty well, but “Genghis Khan” was something else. The chirping synths and tinny production reminded me of Bowie’s Berlin period, and Drama of Exile even features a cover of “Heroes.” However, Drama of Exile came out in 1981, a few years after Bowie had moved on from Berlin. Anyway, after hearing Rollins play “Genghis Khan” I looked up the album on streaming services and returned to it repeatedly over the next several months, and eventually I added it to my want list.

It took a long time to track down a reasonably priced copy because Drama of Exile never came out in the US, and COVID-19 has made me wary of ordering records internationally. A few weeks ago a copy popped up in the US, though, and I couldn’t pull the trigger fast enough. I’ve listened to it several times over the past few weeks, and I’ve only come to love it more. While I could deal without the covers (particularly “I’m Waiting for the Man”), the rest of the LP is brilliant. If you’re a fan of Bowie’s Berlin albums or Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life and The Idiot, there’s a strong chance you’ll agree.

Since getting into Drama of Exile I’ve also checked out Chelsea Girl and that’s great too, though the vibe is different. I think I need to check out The Marble Index and The End, though I’m open to other recommendations if anyone has any. Oh, and I’ve also just now discovered that there’s an entire alternate recording of Drama of Exile that sounds totally different. It never ends!

Staff Picks: Jeff

Subdued: Over The Hills and Far Away 12” (Roach Leg)

It's crazy, at the time of me writing this, Sorry State had actually already sold out of our copies of this LP. Luckily, we should have it restocked by the time the newsletter goes out. Who knew this record would be such a hit? PS, am I the only one who thought it was funny this gnarly new band out of the UK named their record after a Led Zeppelin song? (just kidding)

Anyway, this new Subdued LP, along with Rigorous Institution’s Survival single, is an interesting one-two punch from Roach Leg. Each band is kinda leaning in the crust direction, which is a refreshing sound amongst other releases on the label. In the description on Roach Leg’s site, Subdued is directly compared to Amebix. This is funny because I feel like way more-so Rigorous Institution's vocalist is a dead ringer for The Baron. It is very apparent that Subdued are ambitious in trying to create a dark and heavy atmosphere, especially like the introductory passage in “Problem of Evil”, but for me, I feel like the metallic influences end there. I couldn’t help but feel like there was a disorienting element in the guitars that seemed super familiar that I’d heard elsewhere in my UK hardcore… I took it upon myself to see who played guitar in this band. And A-HA! I knew it, Ralph from DiE and Permission plays guitar on this record. His signature guitar approach is so detectable. While I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, there’s a couple mid-paced riffs of this LP that come in and are straight up HARD. Even so, I think these familiar hardcore stylings mixed with some wisps of darkness are a welcome combination. Subdued’s sound does seem very authentic and thoughtfully put together. Definitely one of the more unique and powerful hardcore records I’ve heard in a while. Not sure if Sorry State will be able to get more copies, but definitely try to snag one if you get the chance. (Note: they're back in stock now! Buy away! --Daniel)

Staff Picks: Eric

What’s up everyone? Y’all miss me? I sure miss all of you. I moved up to Richmond a couple weeks ago and have been settling into a new town during a global pandemic (weird to think I haven’t been inside a business except for 711). I’m super grateful that Daniel and crew are allowing and encouraging me to continue writing for the newsletter. Moving forward I’m not sure what my picks are going to like seeing as I don’t have immediate access to all the sick new records that come into the store. For now, I want to tell you about a used record I picked up the other day:

The Catalyst: Voyager 12”: Anyone that knows me personally knows I’m a bit of a Catalyst super fan. I have many fond memories going to see insane sets from them when I was young (including a set in Northern Virginia where the cops busted into the room and they kept playing. I’ll remember that forever). Voyager was their last record before their demise. I originally brushed this record off because I knew this record marked the departure of their second drum, which made them a 3 piece. Part of the reason I loved them was seeing two drummers in a fucked up punk band and not some whack ass doom metal band (I like the Melvins just fine). I have every other record they put out and figured it’s about time I complete the collection. I’m bummed I slept on it so long. It’s the same perfect mixture or Dystopia, Nirvana and Pg. 99 that enticed me in the first place. In fact, the recording is so much clearer with only one drummer. The main difference I hear in this record compared to their earlier material is it is way more melodic, and in fact has some actual singing? It’s fuckin’ grungy as fuck. I definitely recommend it for fans of heavy, fucked up punk with dissonant chord structures. Truly interesting and unique tunes!

Staff Picks: Dominic

Whenever the temperature rises and the summer months set in I always feel the need to listen to Reggae, Afro-Funk and Latin music of some sorts. It’s hitting high 90s here in Raleigh and so for this week’s picks I thought I would include two of those genres with a couple of records that I have loved ever since first hearing them and that are somewhat connected as they originally appeared on the same label. The first is:

Earl Coleman And The Latin Love-In. Worthy Records. 1967

I was lucky to find a copy of his record soon after I moved to New York City in the late 90s at a flea market in Chelsea. It was a good day of digging because I remember finding Minnie Riperton’s Come to my garden that day also. Anyway, the Earl Coleman just looked interesting and I took a chance and was so glad I did. Coming out on the Worthy Records label, an independent Jazz label founded by Gil Snapper in the late 50s. Released in 1967 but recorded probably in 1966 as a single preceded the album, this is a beauty of a New York, mid-sixties Latin boogaloo record. And that term boogaloo is correct and the original use, so screw those turds trying to steal it. The record incorporates several Latin styles but has a couple of really good dancefloor numbers, namely Sex Drive In D Minor and Come On Down which sound like prime Ray Barretto, Joe Cuba et al. Coleman was the piano player on these sessions and the group supporting him are superb. The playing is top notch all the way through with nice ebbs and flows and tempo changes and a sound that is traditional but cool also. The cut that caught my ears first time listening though was Hippy Heaven, a song about LSD and how the singer’s (producer and label head Gil Snapper) girlfriend got high and jumped out of a window. Classic 6Ts stuff.
 
Next up is:

Mulatu Astatke: Mulatu Of Ethiopia. Worthy Records. 1972

Again, on the Worthy Label, I believe this was the last or close to last release on the label, coming out as it did originally in 1972. Mulatu was from Ethiopia and studied music abroad for many years and recorded three albums in New York, this one and two others a few years earlier in 1966 which were more straight up Latin-Jazz. The unique blend of Jazz with Afro-Ethiopian touches literally created a new hybrid genre of music that is known as Ethio-Jazz. Mulatu was a multi-instrumentalist who played keyboards, organ and vibraphone and a prolific composer. He blends the jazzy sound of vibes with Latin percussion and then adds the secret Ethiopian ingredient to come up with a sound that seems familiar but is at once very different and unique and instantly recognizable once you are familiar. I like this record also because it has a more contemporary feel than the earlier records and doesn’t date itself instantly. Over the last twenty years or so the world has caught up with Mulatu. His music has been used in movie soundtracks and the sound he created has definitely influenced some modern artists. Our man Gil Snapper says it best in the liner notes, “This is a record you cannot play just once. It is musically addictive, especially when the volume is turned up”.

Both of these records as originals are quite collectible but thankfully have been reissued a few times. We have a copy of the Mulatu currently in stock as I type if I have piqued your interest.

Cheers all. Until next time.



Staff Picks: Usman

VIVISECTED NUMBSKULLS

On my first listen knowing nothing about this recording - I thought this was an '80s band straight up. Is it bad that if the recording sounds like its from the '80s I am way more inclined to like it? To me, this tape sounds somewhere between a record you'd find on Riot City or No Future Records and maybe a Swedish HC band. I actually think they sound like Snobb Slakt a lot. I don't have the physical tape yet so I'm writing this based on the youtube link. Man, the first song kicks in full on fuckin raging... pounding drums up front in the mix, with the toms rolling right into yer fuckin face. The guitars are really fuzzy, not blown out like you would hear with a modern band. They do sound a tad digital but I think it pulls off the "'80s" sound really well. I bet the guitar tone will sound even better on tape! I'm always wondering what elements have to come together to get that gritty, cutting but clear guitar tone found on classic albums like Riistetyt's Valtion Vankina. Anyway, this VIVISECTED NUMBSKULLS tape features four tracks. The riffs are played really mean but the chords typically contrast each other in a catchy way. The rampant vocal style really leans into my UK82 reference, along with the general 1,2,1,2 vibe from the drums. Ah, don't let me forget about the brief solos sprinkled throughout the songs. I absolutely love the solos... dissonant and buried in the mix, but they stand out like mad cos the tone is super "clean" compared to the rest. It sounds like a whistling flute in the distance or something haha. It is strongly reminiscent of the Anti-Cimex solos found on the Really Really Fast and I Thrash Therefore I Am compilation tracks. This band walks the line of "tough" pretty often but then they do something that compliments the writing in this way that makes the band sound more "classic" than tough. For example, in the mid-tempo song Mausoleum, the bass maintains this groove that keeps the song from straying into the "wall-to-wall" HC sound. It's perfect. Most modern bands I hear who try to pull off classic HC or crust sounds have a tendency to come off a bit tough. I feel like it's such a fine line... VIVISECTED NUMBSKULLS certainly walks this line, but keeps its classy in the end. Top-notch HC 100% worth your time! Check it out. Sorry State has copies on the way.

As I said above, I don't know many bands that sound like Snobb Slakt. They don't play the "traditional" käng/mängel Swedish style like most Swedish bands I know and obsess over. Some elements of Snobb Slakt do remind me of other Swedish bands I know like Headcleaners, Wax, or Ab Hjärntvätt. I wish I knew more about them! They have many appearances on compilation tapes and a cassette release "Anti-Disco" that was released before this 1984 EP. I don't know any bands affiliated to them, or where they are from either. I looked up the mailing address on the back of this EP and its a small coastal city close to Denmark called Helsingborg. However, this is just the mailing address for booking/info so i'm really not sure if the band is even from there. Check out the EP! I thinks it's fairly underrated, and still "fairly" affordable. I got my copy from Dennis Nukke from Solar Funeral (if yer reading this, WHAT UP!).

P.S. I have a few records for trade. email me if yer interested, or if you have any info you'd be kind enough to share on Snobb Slakt!!!

in.decay@yahoo.com
Betong Hysteria - Spontan Abort (MES 4)
Death Side - All Is Here Now (HG 15)




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