TRACK | Cobra Man – Living in Hell

5/5 golden merles

“Living in Hell” is synth pop / electro-punk with a great sense of fantastical demiurge. It’s anthemic and apocalyptical, with a chorus that must redeem any perceived trespasses or misgivings punk purists might have about the synthesis of style. They’re expertly balancing a heightened humor and horror around two premier vocal performances, joyfully heralding our ongoing collapse.

In the dark times will there also be power disco? Can directly 80’s influenced music become self-aware and not have this result in the destruction of the world? Who cares. It’s a lot of fun. There’s a good mix of disco feinting at egg punk/devocore and all as a means to an end, all in the service of melody and evocation. Initially I was a bit put-off by the grandiosity and refinement. But it’s just too damn good. It rises to include those heightened elements while maintaining a palpable sense of impending dread that best embodies the cultural moment.

Spiritually a bit akin to recent p&p favorites LAFFF BOX, Cupid And The Stupids, –or any of the yolkier punks. The new 2022 Demos III from July are real exciting as well.

TRACK | Jack Stauber – Dead Weight

5/5 golden merles

The strength of Dead Weight lays in it hemorrhaging melody and the lack of limitations embodied in the core of its chaotic good. An endless series of synths rotate in sequence of killer calibration, all the way to its frenetic, gargled conclusion.

A perpetual no-skip on the gauntlet rotation, Jack’s sense of detailing is remarkable across mediums (See: 2020’s musical-horror short Opal). Also for more tunes check his other musical projects/collaborations with Joose and Zaki.

He’s been away for a bit as far as I can tell after Opal/HiLo, so, in either case of hibernation or another project patiently building, I am greatly looking forward to whatever medium he favors in the coming years.

TRACK | TENTENT – Nieznany Ląd

5/5 golden merles

TENTENT provides dynamic post-punk from Warsaw. The title roughly translates as “Unknown Land.” It’s rallying and transfixing garage rock, patiently coursing in accumulated spirals that venture carefully outward from the sturdy melodic core.

There’s lots of intricate plotting to the instrumentation, tightly performed and locked into the bass exemplar. The track gives us a lesson in how to unfurl a melody that has otherwise fastened around its center. And when the lead breaks later and is freed from this orbit the culmination is deliberate and transcendent material. There’s a great deal of fine pacing and interplay.

The vinyl from Shovel head Records remains available in mint and gold, sent from Poland for about ~$25 with shipping.

TRACK | Christian Fitness – Kill the Bored

5/5 golden merles

Finding a bit of humor in the proverbial hemorrhage, Christian Fitness is equipped to reframe the general malaise in a way that may bring you amusement. Striking synths and string-approximations hammer tones into shapely assemblages, with much invention in the language, its phrasing of fine hooks.

Would you say you are a timebomb ticking / or just a normal person dealing badly with change?

There’s a great deal of care put into the honing of textures and lines. Blatantly tactful, manifesting the mess but with levity, it’s truly a nice state of mind to get trapped in. Not a band I know well. It didn’t stick on first exposure but the tab was still open in the rancid nest of endless windows, and now I realize I’m about a 100 tracks behind on something quite special and good.

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 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.

TRACK | The Cowboys – After Sunset

5/5 golden merles

Bloomington Indiana’s masters of tone were on their A game for this one. “After Sunset” is a cultured rumination on the merits of the night, its highs (the moon) and lows (everything else).

There are many convincing details in these numerous doubts, many cleanly laid out facts that act as foundation for the anecdote: …lawn darts, losing one’s self, the casual alienation. It feels like any given evening. And it has plenty of nuance that humanize the narrator and almost makes you believe it was written by a person, a rounded character, bounding about the same damned earth that you inhabit.

I am made of fire today / and I’m trying to think of things to say to you / after sunset

For me, volume 3 and 4 were the sweet spot for these refined midwestern ghouls. But there are many years to come, probably, and perhaps the dreary flagging of their early efforts will return when the polish of clons/flowers wears, burns, or melts off a bit, whatever the case may be.

I haven’t listened to Lovers in Marble yet. I’m too far behind. If everyone could just agree on a truce for 4-5 years, a nice détente, I’ll catch up on these releases.

TRACK | Datenight – Gone Tomorrow

5/5 golden merles

In the muck and bile of all that is, distractions can be a primary preoccupation for a preponderance of your existence. Good news then that Datenight is here to remind you, in stunning fashion, to just let it go.

Clearly recorded live / in the room, whichever one was available in Ben’s parent’s house, there’s much resonant synchronized thrashing and the band is tight. These coordinated exertions in the service of noise are criminally underrated. And I have not even yet arrived at their 2020 release, Is This Also It.

You fools, you feckless thugs, you can still purchase the thing off of Discogs, gently used for about $13 USD, assuming you live near enough to these superficially united states. When I get some more pennies in the piggy bank, I’ll do it myself. That is, however, a second hand purchase and doesn’t benefit the band. Buy the digital version that does.