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GRAFFITI ISLAND – Pet Snake/Demonic Cat (7″, Fin Du Monde Records)

Posted: February 8th, 2010, by JGRAM

This is a terrifying seven inch that really has to be seen and touched to be believed.  Housed on one-sided vinyl the reverse of the release is snakeskin seven inch.  Lush.  Quite frankly it makes me feel queasy to touch, sick to experience and ill to move onto my turntable.  It is also a disco plate with one of those large jukebox holes.  In this day and age such aching decadence is purely criminal, this is most definitely the best way to go out.

With this record Graffiti Island do it again, this is all painfully great stuff creaking like coolest hula party never assembled in a manner that should cause Calvin Johnson to reconsider his output of recent times and take pride in the fact that he has influenced so many that are now doing things so much more better.

There is a Petsmart theme to this record, a tone of affection that comes with the wrong love of having angry pets.  Well, perhaps not but that is my interpretation.  Sue me.

At the fear of sounding too gushing the package just turns me on with its warped Snoop Dogg crossed with Garfield gone wrong cover artwork.  This is graffiti of the highest order, a demonstration of smut and angular thinking.

Returning to the music the pulse is strong with this one.  The rudimentary guitars are survived by vocals ascribing major intent as an echo blossoms to scintillating and terrifying degrees.  “Demonic Cat” in particular describes a high degree of mischief with its “666 lives”.  The lurching motions of the song perfectly describe the movements of somebody up to no good.  These songs would be perfect for the Batman TV series soundtrack.  If only Adam West hadn’t already made it.


Thesaurus moment: chum.

Graffiti Island

Fin Du Monde Records

Machinefabriek – De Jonge Jaren (2001-2004) (digital, 2010)

Posted: February 4th, 2010, by Justin Snow

Machinefabriek gave the world a present (today?). You can now download and listen to the earliest recordings of Machinefabriek before “Machinefabriek.” Songs compiled from 20 CD-Rs he self released way before his debut full length Marijn came out on Lampse. Songs that sound almost nothing like the Machinefabriek we know and love today.

De Jonge Jaren sounds like Machinefabriek making a Notwist/Aphex Twin record. Yeah, tons of electronic beats, pretty poppy, kinda catchy, and really fuckin good. Hearing the roots and foundation of the guy who went on to record Marijn is endlessly fascinating to me and I bet I’m not the only one, which is probably why he released this.

There’s a text file included in the download that tells the story of how Machinefabriek came to be and where these songs came from. It’s a pretty great read, especially the part about his metal phase where he “became a master in drawing unreadable band logos.” Imagining this guy being really into Cannibal Corpse is fucking hilarious for some reason.

Download De Jonge Jaren (2001-2004)

THESE MONSTERS – “Call Me Dragon” (CD/LP/Download, Brew Records/Function Records)

Posted: January 29th, 2010, by Dave Stockwell

From the ever-fertile Leeds scene of slightly-fucked rock musics emerge These Monsters, a raging behemoth of a traditional power trio with added saxophonist (who also occasionally plays synths). And some very big amps.

The sum of their three years of existence so far, this 7 track album space the best part of 40 minutes of heavyheavy sax-addled space rock with the occasional shouted vocal sitting in the background. Quite simply, it’s exhausting.

Live, These Monsters are an intriguing proposition. Four very committed young men throwing themselves into some progtastic heavy rock abandon, they’re as likeable as they are freaked-out. The huge amps help pummel the killer riffs into your skull and everyone ends up smiling stupidly. You can’t but help have a good time.

So it’s my regret to report that I really had a hard time listening to this record. Yes, the band’s performances are great and they run breathlessly through more ideas than most other rock bands have in their entire careers. Unfortunately, the sound of the thing is simultaneously muted and wearing. It sounds like the band have turned their amps down and turned the compressor up in a bid to give their riffs and chops maximum clarity. It certainly shows their musicianship up nicely, but none of the overblown instruments that knock crowds for six in a live environment sound pleasing to the ear and the whole thing feels like the dynamics have been squashed out of it.

Yes, so many records of so-called “heavy” bands have suffered this treatment in the never-ending loudness war, but I can’t for the life of me see why a band of this ilk would feel the need to squish the life out of their enviable sound in a bid for their records to sound good on a shitty radio or MP3 player. Yes, this is a very personal complaint, but when such tactics render me unable to physically sit through an entire record of not disagreeable music, I’ve got to say so. And this is coming from a Kevin Drumm fan, so cut me some slack. Or just call me a an old fogey if you want, but all I can hope is that the LP sounds a hell of a lot easier on the ear than the CD I was sent.

What I did manage to tolerate (between breaks) sounded like a promising album, if one that’s monotonous sounds end up aggravating rather than stimulating. There’s a distinct lack of light and shade to These Monsters’ songs anyway, which is forgivable for rowdy and raucous live band, but is pretty hard to take in the comfort of your own home. A little more variation, more exploration of different sounds and tones, would have worked wonders for all the arse-kicking riffery that this record celebrates. And there was me thinking that the caterwauling sax would be the hardest thing to adjust to.

At the end of the day, These Monsters are an undeniably talented and intriguing band. I’d suggest you check ’em out in the live environment if possible, or mebbe just give the Youtube video below a listen and see what you think. But think hard whether you’d like to spend 40 minutes of your life pummeling your ears into a dull oblivion.

These Monsters on YouTube

These Monsters Myspace

Function Records
Brew Records

DEAN McPHEE – “Brown Bear” (LP, Hood Faire)

Posted: January 29th, 2010, by Dave Stockwell

Back in April last year I reviewed a split 7″ between abstract post-rock explorers Chapters and solo electric guitarist Dean McPhee. Of the latter, I mentioned I was looking forward to a full-length from him, so look what turned up in the mail just before Christmas? A 3 track vinyl only offering, encompassing a good 20 minutes of reverb-laden plucking and twanging. Dunno if 20 minutes really constitutes a “full-length”, but it’s beautifully presented in a matt sleeve stuffed with a 180 gram record (limited to 500 copies), so I’m not complaining.

John Fahey has cast a hell of a long shadow over so many of the solo guitarists that have emerged in the last decade and the cult of Six Organs of Admittance has outdone them all, so it’s pleasure to review someone taking a different approach. McPhee’s sound is very simple and uncluttered; he takes his time establishing a feeling before delving further into explorations of melody and mood. The sound of his Telecaster run through a handful of discreet, selectively employed pedals (a little tremolo here, and dash of subtle delay there) into an amplifier is undeniably hi-fi and run through with the inimitable “Fender clean” sound. His finger picking and smooth hands make his songs ebb and flow as naturally as a stream wending its way through his home country of the Yorkshire Dales. It’s all admirably pleasant and a relaxing experience; McPhee has little time for building tension or pushing the limits of tonality. Instead, the listener experiences ragas quite unlike the endless Fahey knock-offs, and the two longer songs here offer diverting mental excursions without the leaden promise of over-wrought climax or denouement.

If I was to offer any criticism of McPhee’s song craft, it’s that he doesn’t take enough risks for my tastes. All these tracks are reportedly first takes and exhibit some signs of improvisations, but it’s rare that you get the feeling he is playing anywhere near the limits of his comfort zone – both in terms of technique, but also in explorations of how the notes he plays fit together. His laid-back, thoughtful style can’t be faulted in terms of precision, but there’s no sense of mess, of sparkling inspiration or epiphany here: I feel he could have knocked out a good hour’s worth of this stuff without breaking sweat. And without the sweat, that graft, it all just seems a little too easy, a little too much like the record you’d pull out to play your future mother-in-law to convince her that not all the music you like is a blasted racket without a tune.

Dean McPhee is obviously a very talented musician and a master of his own craft; I’d just like to see him push himself that little bit further – get right to the limits and find out where the real magic happens. Until then, this record is a lovely late-night slow-burner that you can settle into without having to commit any of yourself to. If McPhee can start putting some grit into his work and capture a little bit of that undefinable soul, I’d really start to prick my ears up and listen hard.

Dean McPhee on Myspace
Hood Faire

OrganOrganOrganOrgan – OrganOrganOrganOrgan (CD, Seedy R!)

Posted: January 26th, 2010, by Justin Snow

Here’s the one time live collaborative supergroup you never knew happened. Sam Hamilton, Stefan Neville, Campbell Kneale and Antony Milton got together at some gallery in New Zealand and each brought their chord organs. See how the name works out there?

Fact: I loooove me some drone. Fact: Organ drone is, like, the best kind of drone. Fact: All four of the dudes involved with this are infallible drone lords. So this Organx4 thing was destined to blow my mind. It never had a choice.

The recording is a single track clocking in at nearly a half hour. I get the feeling this was the entire live set, but there’s no real way of knowing unless you were there (holy FUCK I wish I was there). But for 30 minutes, your ears go on a magical journey of blissful beds of warm fuzz creating the foundation for the mostly melodious wheezing tones and weaving chords.

Honestly, though, all you need to know is “organ drone.” Obviously, this is organ drone of the highest quality considering the masters behind it. It’s the best of the best. These are the winners of the organ drone contest.

Seedy R!

Push/Pull – Between Noise and the Indians (Joyful Noise)

Posted: January 24th, 2010, by Pascal Ansell

Snares and crashes straight to the central nervous – a jolly classic rockin’ racket recommended for those hairy wrinkling ears of yours. ‘Hungry’ has one proud lion of a riff, a four minute parade, well deserving a stadium. And you, he, she, one doesn’t often notice a good bassist, but a good old crunch on this chap’s strings is welcome, very welcome.

There are bits of Tony Iommi and King Buzzo’s greying pubes spitting around this plentiful logfire of fun. It’s as humble as a domino, swaggering the natural swagger. I like it.


Pascal Ansell

HEY COLOSSUS/DETHSCALATOR — Hey Colossus Vs Dethscalator (LP, Black Labs)

Posted: January 24th, 2010, by Simon Minter

Hey Colossus have just one track on this, the latest in their growing line of full-length releases. And full-length it certainly is: their ‘Eyes For An Eye / Unlive Wire / Ain’t No Love In The Mallet’ medley is over twenty-one minutes in length, and it’s pretty gruelling stuff. I’m sure that this band started out as something of a joke, or a fun side project – and I don’t mean that in a pejorative way, just that I’m not sure at what point in their career they became this brutal. This isn’t twenty-plus minutes of screaming and noise, however; it’s more unsettling than that. They create a whirling, miasmic confusion of echoing sound and muttering, distant voices, that’s as frightening as it is compelling and, frankly, weird. Dethscalator pitch in with five tracks of – in this context – far more normal music. Extract these tracks into their own release however, and they’d be pretty surreal in themselves: strangled, urgent vocals sputtered over growling pseudo-black metal riffing and moody, stalking rhythms. They’re at their most effective when they warp things out a bit, especially on the fantastically-named ‘You Know Nothing About Cars Or Martial Arts’, on which the vocals are special-effected into all kinds of weird places, over a never-ending repetition of riff that pounds the listener into the kind of delirious, happy dark place that Circle manage to do when at their most rockingest. This is the first release from Riot Season offshoot Black Labs, and it’s set the bar pretty high. More!

Hey Colossus website
Dethscalator website
Black Labs on Myspace

Kevin Drumm – Light’s Out (digital, self released)

Posted: January 19th, 2010, by Justin Snow

On New Years Eve day, crazy noise motherfucker Kevin Drumm released Light’s Out as a free digital download on his blog. It’s a single 28 minute mp3 with 4 tracks recommended at “maximum volume.” Fucking obviously.

2 pulse generators, 1 band pass filter, tape delay, computer assistance, and one epic noise fuck. “Spraying Weeds” sounds like a fire hose of acidic rat poison blowing through your ears. “Hypnogogic Jerk” is slightly less caustic and instead goes the high end static skree route, at times so shrill I think I’m going insane and my ears are about to bleed. I think “Needleprick” is bound to give everyone vertigo and by the end of “Idle Worship” you’ll have fallen out of your chair convulsing on the ground in a pool of your own vomit. Ear piercing doesn’t even begin to describe this music. You need the nerves of a god to be able withstand this kind of minimal brain boring squeal.

Could I love this man any more? Doubtful. This is sheer brutality on your physical and metaphysical self. And just think you didn’t even have to pay for it!

Kevin Drumm
Light’s Out

TODD — Big Ripper (CD, Riot Season)

Posted: January 17th, 2010, by Simon Minter

Todd’s first release in a couple of years is a giant sludgy beast, a collapsing timber mill of a record that the jaunty lumberjack on its sleeve can’t even hope to prepare you for. They’ve always been fearsomely loud, and sleazily proud, but this might just be the album on which they really got it together. It’s got the noise, distortion, mayhem and feedback that’ll be all too frighteningly familiar to any previous listeners, but on Big Ripper it’s wrapped up in an unexpectedly new and thoughtful package.

The album spends much of its time screaming into your brain and piling up freakish glimpses into a selection of dark places, but there is real structure and, dare I say it, artistry at work here. First track ‘Track Side Fire’ has an actual middle eight, and an almost conventional song structure, for example. ‘The (R)web’, as another case study, adds real texture and breaks down into a weird, random set of echoed notes, like honest-to-goodness proper experimental music. By the time we reach ‘French and in France’, a strange, slow-paced lurch of a song, echoed guitars and feedback squalls dropping in before disappearing away into a hallucinogenic struggle against noise, it suddenly becomes clear what’s going on here. Todd are traditional hard rock filtered through today’s post-everything musical landscape, slammed up against a wall of alcohol, drugs and unhealthy interests. They crunch and rock like violent thugs, but they’ve got hearts of black gold and dangerous, sharp brains ticking over on their collective back burner. Final track ‘French and out of France’ is the flipside to mayhem – a creepy, relentless, distorted stalker’s presence, that burrows into the floor as a final, belching digital pulse leading into silence. It’s a fittingly intense and confusing end to an album that refuses to ever do what you’d expect.

Todd on Myspace
Riot Season

WILD PALMS – Over Time (7″, Popular Recordings)

Posted: January 13th, 2010, by JGRAM

Whether or not this band was purposely named after one of the weirdest TV shows in recent memory regardless the music coming from this single is some of the wickedly spikiest guitar stuff I have heard in a long time.  For once here is a post punk band that actually sounds sinister and at home in possession of records by Wire and Gang Of Four.

Scratchy to the point of being disorientating, “Over Time” reminds me a lot of These New Puritans and Liars, which is a pretty decent prospect considering how the post punk direction can also be seen to turn bands into sounding like The Editors as well these days.  Its all about being successful purveyors of the spastic jerk time sequences, of unleashing and delivering it in a stand out manner that ideally transmits straight into the portion of the listeners mind that will cause their heart to pulse and legs to move.

I’m not really sure as to where this band and song are able to fit into my everyday existence and wellbeing, this isn’t the first time a band has sounded like this and most definitely it won’t be the last but in a climate such as the current this is a sound and trait that manages to stand out over the rest of the bands that are making it into the few remaining music magazines.

Its all going to be downhill from here.

Thesaurus moment: optimism

Wild Palms

Popular Recordings