Due to an unscheduled attack of killer toothache, my fellow trakMARXist, Dick Porter, is in the treatment room this week, and unable to post his own choice of band of the week (BOTW). Seeing as we call it BOTW because we post a relatively new band, erm, every week, I thought it wise to come off the subs bench.
L.O.T.I.O.N. are noisy, sexy, digital and fun. Another of the myriad underground tribes of New York, L.O.T.I.O.N. are rumored to include members of Japanese-voiced-D-Beat-masters, Nomad, gothic experimentalists, Survival, and noise-punk stalwarts, Zatsuon.
Their debut 6-track c/s on Burn Books – ‘First Audio Document 2013′ – suggests they are on nodding terms with many of digital hardcore history’s leading lights, though they retain enough identity of their own to warrant interest beyond curiosity. Between the analogue loops, processed beats and treated vocal whines, lurk murky bass/guitar lines to confuse and intrigue. As a soundtrack for a unitary urbanist acid flash back, ‘First Audio Document 2013″ shows both promise, and hallucination-inducing potential. The neo-industrial revolution is upon us. Apparently.
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Remarkably, for a band containing members of Crazy Spirit, Dawn Of Humans and Hank Wood and the Hammerheads, Murderer sound exactly as you’d expect them to, and that’s no bad thing, baby. In fact, it’s a good thing.
Emerging from the sewers of NYC, all the animals come out at night. Dopers, pimps, junkies: Murderer. It’s sick, venal, and one of my personal favourite demo tapes: right here, right now.
Since Sam Ryser & chums announced themselves to the DIY world on Toxic State’s ‘Ground Zero’ comp way back in 2013 with ‘Hush Baby, Stop Crying’, Murderer have maintained a special place in this old heart of mine. They have the stomp, they have the growl, they have the fuzz, and they have the chops to match. They are oft-dismissed as inept, but it takes talent to sound this special, in my book. Their songs are simple, their sound is spartan, their approach is no-fi, but their impact is considerable:
“I try to be good at everything I do/But everything I do is dirty and bad/I’m a bad boy, baby.” – ‘Bad Boy’
On this here six-track c/s (Toxic State) – ‘Bad Boy’, ‘What Am I Supposed To Do?’, ‘Trash’, ‘Murderer’, ‘Boss’ and ‘Ice Cream Man’ – Murderer set about their task with Ramonic discipline. The fidelity may leave much to be desired, but that somehow doesn’t matter. These songs are perfect as they are, spit and polish would doubtless remove every trace of what marks them down as unique in this format. For a three-piece, Murderer fling an awful lot of muck. I love the grubby way they set about their work. Their sound is stained by the grime of the underground, soaked through from rising damp, held together only by stubborn stains. It’s going to take a miracle to get these boys clean. Grab a piece of the action here:
Girls Versus Boys
‘Pop’ has evidently become somewhat of a dirty word on the DIY underground. Most post-post-modern punky wavers seemingly despise the very concept of populism, electing instead to use words such as ‘catchy’ or ‘infectious’ to reference anything that one may conceivably hum as one goes about one’s daily drudgery. In the spirit of authenticity, then, it is worth remembering that first wave UK punk didn’t just usher in a bunch of shouty herberts with broken guitars and manifestos, it brought with it an explosion of ever-more-accessible quality ‘catchiness’ that re-aligned pop’s relationship with the cultural cogniscenti of the day.
In 2014, we live in an evidence-based world, and, bearing this in mind, it’s helpful to examine the available evidence on both sides of the gender divide when making a case for the continued relevance of the art of quality pop song composition.
In the girls’ corner, out of Berlin, come Levitations, an all-female four-piece, who, after 3-years of gigging/developmental growth, released their ‘Partners In Crime’ EP (Cut The Cord That) in September of 2013. I discovered Levitations whilst researching the fertile Berlin scene that revolves around Heartfirst Records, and hardcore bands such as Pig//Control and Mulltute:
In a nutshell, Levitations remind me of Kleenex, and ‘Partners In Crime’ is equally as magnificent as Kleenex’s Sunrise Records EP was back in 1978. Across four songs – ‘Decisions’, ‘B-sides’, ‘Partners In Crime’ and ‘Diva’ – Elisa, Christiane, Charlene and Caro raise the ancient art of original songwriting from beneath the rotting corpse of Judas Iscariot, where it has evidently laid festering for the past 30-odd-years. The girl-gang vocals are amongst the strongest of their ilk I have heard in recent years. They even manage to out-shop Shopping, and that’s no mean feat. The spikey guitars go everywhere you don’t expect them to, entwining the bass and drums in a mesh of thoroughly engaging brilliance. The songs snake around like feisty vipers in tall grass. ‘Partners In Crime’ has ‘rewind’ written all over it. Sadly, it has come to our attention that guitarist Elisa has recently left Levitations, and that’s a shame. We hope that Levitations will find a replacement soon, this band is way too good to fall apart. Anyway, without further ado, you can find ‘Partners In Crime’ here at Levitations bandcamp page, they have a Facebook page too. Have a listen, see if I’m wrong, then ‘like’ up their page, and tell them how much you love them. I did.
In the boys’ corner, out of Copenhagen, come Communions, an all-male four-piece raised in the same rehearsal space as big brother Danes, Iceage and Lower, who, after an existence measurable in months rather that years, released their exemplary ‘Cobblestones’ EP (Posh Isolation) in February of 2014. Posh Isolation describe them thus:
“Communions is a new young quartet, from the same four-wall rehearsal space as Copenhagen contemporaries Iceage and Lower, and under the same roof as most of Copenhagen’s new punk, industrial and synth scene – at the studio and venue complex called Mayhem in Copenhagen.
Though Communions share a flame with the current Copenhagen wave, the torch is certainly their own. The four tracks that make up their debut EP entitled Cobblestones map out the aches and hopes of young hearts with remarkable precision and honesty, and is done with an unusual ear for melody and song writing.
The four young men, brothers Martin and Mads Rehof, together with Jacob van Deurs Formann and Frederik Lind Köppen recorded their debut on their own – in their rehearsal space at Mayhem and in Frederik’s living room, resulting in songs sounding exactly as they were intended, where the guitars scream like torn throats and the songs beat in rhythm of young hearts pouring over with passion.”
In many ways, there’s no arguing with that. If I was being a lazy fanzine writer, I’d say Communions sound like Iceage covering The Stone Roses, but such simplicity is beneath me. Instead, I can only offer more hyperbole: ‘Cobblestones’ is simply stunning. If there has been a finer EP of its kind in living memory, then I’ve forgotten it, already. Over a spectrum of four songs – ‘Children’, ‘Cobblestones’, ‘Seascapes’ and ‘You Go On’ – Communions reinvent innocence in glistening perfection. Whilst the recordings remain resolutely lo-fi (not helped by available rips being burnt direct from the vinyl), the maturity of compositional technique on show here is flabbergasting. Communions are here to share, they bring their intimate thoughts and feelings for consecration. Eucharistically speaking, there’s solid case that these four young men deserve worshiping.
The Floor Above, a lone-gunman operating out of the book depository of country & western music, Nashville, Tennessee, create ‘raw and hollow’ outsider hardcore played with ‘absolute fury and determination’ that defies comparison. A triumvirate of cassette releases on Closet Landscapes collates 36-songs documenting the band’s gestation period (2011-2012), culminating in the 2013 release of The Floor Above’s incendiary debut twelve, ‘Bishop’ (Savage Quality Recordings):
CL001 The Floor Above – s/t – C/S 2011
CL002 The Floor Above – ‘Some Life’ – C/S 2012
CL003 The Floor Above – ‘Backyards’ – C/S 2012
Savage Quality Recordings, the Columbus, Ohio, label run by Pink Reason’s Kevin Failure, is The Floor Above’s natural home, and in Messrs, their psychcore label mates, they have a perfect foil.
The Floor Above cram 20-shades of sick shit into ‘Bishop’, veering across the hardcore highway like a road-raging drunk driver, outrunning flashing blue lights and waling sirens. Form and minimal structure loom at you out of the miasma like parked cars: acid flashbacks, aural hallucinations of everything you’d forgotten punk rock had the possibility (nerve?) to encapsulate. Bordering on pure white noise in places, it’s challenging enough to consider how the hell this car crash got made, yet alone make much sense of it in one sitting. It’s taken me the best part of two months to decipher any clarity beneath the mire, but that doesn’t mean it’s not been a pleasurable journey. This is a damn exciting record, and every excursion is an exercise in its own right. Every time I play the fucking thing, I hear something different, sense something new. ‘Bishop’ is a record you’re not going to tire of anytime soon. It’s hard work, admittedly, but all the more pleasing for exactly that reason. There’s an awful lot of paint by numbers stuff out there, comrades, the authorities are constantly improving the quality of boredom: ceaselessly, effortlessly, endlessly.
Messrs, meanwhile, provide a welcome obverse to all this obtuse existentialism, with their s/t debut 6-track c/s release. Like a hardcore Beefheart circa ‘Safe As Milk’, Messrs rail against acute definition, shun categorization, growl and wail, grab and flail, pull tufts of bloodied hair from your scalp, and box your ears. They share certain sensibilities with Dawn Of Humans: equally unhinged, comparatively unique. Messrs threaten, swagger, imply extreme violence, and then leave without saying goodbye. With the promise of a seven inch by the summer of 2014, Messrs are another name to scratch into your desk with a rusty compass.
Savage Quality Recordings, then, is fast becoming a label you can trust with your punk rock life. Alongside the now sadly broken Pink Reason (farewell EP in the pipeline as I type), ‘backwoods cyberpunks’ Teen Anal Terrorist, and low-key, back-porch, noire-vendors, Modra, Columbus, Ohio, is firmly on the map, and Savage Quality Recordings is your bespoke one-stop-shop for fucked up sick shit for losers like us.
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Brazilian feministas Rakta have proved somewhat of a revelation over the formative months of 2014. Their debut twelve on DAMA DA NOITE DISCOS/NADA NADA DISCOS! has been hailed as a game-changer in some quarters, and I wouldn’t argue with such presumption. In the wake of recent high-quality femme-fronted Punk Noire from the likes of Crosta, Belgrado and Sect, Rakta are resolutely all-female, all-action, and, seemingly, all-conquering.
Their signature sound encapsulates elements of the aforementioned, for sure, but effortlessly leapfrogs all-comers with an unnerving blend of noire and psych. It’s simply not sufficient to list former 80s UK post-punk stalwarts here: Rakta evoke vague memories of the era, granted, but they transport them futurewards with Tardisian efficiency and Docterain flair.
Side one celebrates in melodic majesty: all whoops, loops, and jumping through hoops. Side two, meanwhile, wallows in a swampy undertow: largely instrumental, rarely incidental, often transcendental. It’s taken me weeks to get to grips with this rampant eclecticism. I’ve picked it up, spun it round, scratched my head and put it down. It shouldn’t work on paper, it shouldn’t work on wax, but Rakta have invaded my neural pathways, and there’s no turning back. Sumptuously packaged, strikingly dressed, the vinyl comes replete with a giant poster to adorn your walls. Get ready to worship.
- trakMARX: ROCK AND ROLL, GARAGE PUNK, PSYCHE, HEAVY METAL, PROTO PUNK, KRAUTROCK, JAP ROCK, PUNK ROCK, POST PUNK, INDUSTRIAL, BLACK METAL, DOOM/DRONE, POST ROCK, NOISE, AVANT ET L'ART DE L'ETRANGER