TRACK | MENU – Sorcery

5/5 golden merles

“Sorcery” is the first single off the upcoming album from MENU, Pushpin, out October 31st. It follows in the vein of April’s superb/experimental art rock PROOFS (OF THE TRICKS WE PLAYED). It heads off expectations, narrowly avoiding them, in pacing and then pivoting, grappling with guts of the track and turning them back into functional systems of consequence. In playing with tradition through a kind of invention it is achieving a type of escape velocity.

It has some semblance to the works of Flegel/Women/Cindy Lee in the emergence of delicately over elaborated melodies that turn out to be entirely and immediately structurally sound; that selfsame feeling of walking out into the dark and finding sure footing. The presence of the drums is compelling and propulsive, more so than supportive and undergirding. There is some energy in its construct, as if to say: What if traces of math rock could be enjoyed by humans? A proposition I hadn’t seriously considered. But there are tinges and tints to this of that, humanely and held all together.

Look for the album at the end of the spooky month. For now the single is a sole dollar on the bandcamp for the digital experience, which directly supports the artist. Or you could wait and listen to it on Spotify approximately 277 times and the royalties will also accrue to roughly one dollar (not including the fees of distribution).

TRACK | Cluttered Grotto – Asbestos Sandwich

5/5 golden merles

California bedroom punk with more melodic sense than a hijacked ice cream truck and a voice that sounds like cleaning off your lucky blood diamond with a stainless steel scouring pad. All of this is very good and meant to sound appealing to you, as it does to me. It is the relatively happy bastard child of subversion and invention, driving drum loops draped in human pelts.

Canonical-grade commiseration, it’s seated somewhere among the premier set of atomized and alienated subjects of oligarchy, each in isolation making lo-fi melody-rich synth punk. The craft is immediately recognizable. It’s a competitor, in the top tier. I’ve somehow managed to avoid it like an inverse minefield to date.

The turns are abrupt and appropriate, it mends and mangles in good order. If you are synced up with the wavelength fluctuations of the incessant vibration in dichotomy between deathly serious and inconsequential, it comes as a great relief. It feels a little like driving down a cliffside highway when you unexpectedly smash through a thin wall’s painted vista only to find on the other side not impending death but the true, identical vista itself and above it a prop plane trailing a banner containing the message, “haha, sorry.” It’s that kind of fun.

The EP was found on DJ Simon’s fine Infernal Racket. Really excited to dive into the self-titled from May.

TRACK | M.A.Z.E. – Spread the Germicide

5/5 golden merles

II is a vital and frenzied Japanese punk/post-punk rock with enough energy and inventive instrumentation to make its own wave outside the new/no paradigms. Phrenetic and more fun than falling out through the bottom of your own confetti-stuffed coffin.

It is always acting, moving, while we’re all left cleaving to causation, digging about for clues from which actions can be derived, meanwhile M.A.Z.E. have become motion itself. It reminds me of another maelstrom of an album I admire, Black Bug’s 2010 s/t. Each track deviating, but also revolving around its own star and in its own solar system of songs.

It’s a little bit of a revelation that makes me slightly sick to my stomach, a solution that evades this sort of pretense; just lean into it and never stop enduring. Like any good media worth it’s weight in physical space, it creates a world of consistent rules and value and adheres to them. It can be got on black vinyl from Lumpy Records for $17 / $6 for digital folder in perpetuity.

TRACK | Ismatic Guru – I Didn’t Like It

5/5 golden merles

To my great and enduring shame, I didn’t catch it when it slithered out from the egg last month. II is garage punk with punch and experiment, all tracks wrapping promptly in an Irish exit, spun tight with purposes and unraveling in a spectacle. I think you’ll like it, it has a lot of good heart chunks floating in a flavorful lo-fi, protein rich gruel base.

There are 5 tracks in 6 minutes then a “so long, suckers,” and it’s off into the sunset. Replete with textured indulgence and with good causes, all the veins are soundly setup and pointed in the right direction. Lots of rhythmic harping and heaving, to my dismay outpacing even The Bouldermobile at times. It’s a sick set and worth your passive and active income.

This has no brainer written all over it, but, in a cruel twist of fate, without a brain I tragically could not decipher the language. Until now! Name your price. Or the physical is set at 100 Tapes with pins and transmogrifying art, from Swimming Faith Records.

TRACK | Goon – Angelnumber 1210

5/5 golden merles

Los Angeles’ Goon has delivered to us more hypnotically drifting, catastrophe cooing psych rock. The band is in a unique place, confidently contorting melodies and multifaceted textures around otherworldly tales. There’s much care and craft to its interlocking layers and marbled phasing.

From the first moments of the field recordings discordant rumble, then the turning into a steady spine of percussion, it carries itself forward into being with great assurance. The piece feels sculptural and fills the audible void by pushing in many directions. There’s plenty of subtle sequences and attention to detail, each caringly extracted from the aether and melded into the elaborated structure.

The language is casually cryptic or explicitly ambiguous: environmental, a gathering, on earth, belated or in dream. The point is the feeling and the sense of collaborating within a stunning phenomenon and in a world of possibility.

The vinyl is delayed a few months from shipping due to manufacturing shortages but there are digital, tapes, and assorted articles of clothing if you would like to affiliate your physical body with their audible output, all coordinated at the bandcamp.

TRACK | Mesh – Ur Dead

5/5 golden merles

Art punk and garage rock from Philadelphia, pretty great and the amorphous sound of coddling a curse as it’s brought to fruition. Or a few of them. “Ur Dead” is in good company, a super strong set of clank and strum; vocals are traded, guitar tones are produced to an insultingly good state, a film of collateral detailing enveloping the fundamentals.

The track is about the days burnt up within the relative niche of ones life, leaning into the decline, time whiling toward an untimely and self-contained exit. But it’s all for the best, more or less, to the extent that any of it matters. Lots of good humor and shake, reminding a bit and fondly of The Rangoons and Scott and Charlene’s Wedding, if you’ve found comfort in their ilk.

For the price of $5 USD (or more) for digital or tapes from Chicago’s Born Yesterday Records.

TRACK | Wombo – Below The House

5/5 golden merles

Wombo’s Fairy Rust is one of my most anticipated records for awhile and the “Below the House” single is the well chosen/ideal entry. The staccato conversational admissions form the crux of the thing with the bass riff bubbling beneath, absorbing all the terrestrial elements; a nonabrasive and brightly melted solo closes the sequence, outsized, life-like.

From the start you feel a cache is built up with reserves of the flitting but determined melodic phrases, the simple accumulating into gentle grandiosity through the appropriate sequential consequences. Lots of unknowable but familiar components, plainly cryptic, recognizably indecipherable and the like.

Wombo are on tour and the vinyl’s out on Brooklyn’s Fire Talk Records, black or red for a buck more. It’s good sound to hear.

TRACK | Times New Viking – Half Day In Hell

5/5 golden merles

With the proper balance of muck and bile, “Half Day In Hell” conspires to deliver noise pop rock with great wrath and fission. In this base of static hum, no melody is sacrificed to the texture but heightened by it.

Not exactly discordant, it is raised to extremes of saturation with very modest deterioration to melodic intent. Elliott and Murphy trade vocals in the haze, refining the wavelengths. It’s the best produced thing I have listened to (revisited) in ages.

After the last week of inconsequential societal response into a myriad horrors, lines like “we will stay forever for a week,” we have done all that we can do,” “and don’t agree on what to do just to kill time,” and “we couldn’t come together even if we tried,” land a little bit differently, arbitrarily recontextualized to the present in the constant mire of all that is. But these statements remain vaguely stated enough to interpretively address any given scope of social incongruity.

It is modestly miraculous, full of fine trepidation, not reliant on habits and precedent but reaching in its forms to match the emotion and intention. It feels refined but natural and that is a bit freeing. Often when this path is followed it leads into greater abstraction that discounts melody and a greater loss of coherence. Which is fine, but needn’t be the case. Finding that balance is powerful and admirable.

TRACK | Tawings – Listerine

5/5 golden merles

Post-punk/pop from Japan, Tawings sculpt tunes that blend various rock influences minimalistically but with much warble and precision. The instrumentation shakes and severs, fitful and concerted, to great, elaborated result.

With “Listerine” particularly the track is paced in a sophisticated lurch, with many flourishes punctuating the soundscape.

The internal logic of the tactful ornamentation locks decisively around the steady bass and drum foundation. The phrasing and lyricism is agile throughout, happy to fall apart, but prevailing in the act, composed and resolute.

Unique and fun, the vinyl is available for about ~$35 including the shipping from Japan on the bandcamp. There’s also a super cool looking partially clear/cutout case for the single version, but so far no availability on the Discogs.

TRACK | Stereolab – John Cage Bubblegum

5/5 golden merles

I found “John Cage Bubblegum” through Carolyn Hawkins’ (School Damage, Parsnip, Chook Race) Sight of Sound Society Radio Mixcloud feature. It appears on the remastered Stereolab singles and rarities collection Refried Ectoplasm Vol. 2, first issued in 1995 and collected/reissued in 2018.

Drenched in reverb and surrounded, it leans heavily on a few formidable vocal melodies. There are a handful of phrases, breathlessly repeated in French, It’s the most beautiful / and it’s the saddest / it’s the most beautiful / landscape in the world.

As at least partially confirmed by the experimental composure and artist’s name in the title, there is an unreviewed post from Genius.com claiming the track is made in reference to one of Cage’s most famous pieces, 4’33”. In this piece a performer intentionally plays nothing, allowing the audience/ambient noise to become the song.

True or not, there is a fun dialog in the play between these two ideas: lo-fi and no-fi. One is the direct embrace of the erstwhile void and the absence of all else other than that which is usually considered undesirable or an extraneous defect. The other a form that balances leaning into a celebration of melody and tone but also in a lo-fi, human manner, incorporating the place and performers, containing breaths between phrasing and elements of performance that likewise embrace these, to some, imperfections.

The former is the absolute extreme of this idea, but for my tastes, the latter, in contrast to the dehumanized/decontextualized refinement of the last few decades of modern pop, is not too dissimilar either.