Aun / Habsyll -- split lp [Public Guilt]
Now this is an inspired match -- two slices of acid-rock death drone from Canada's Aun on one side, one long and tortured blast of post-Khanate ambient doom hell from France's Habsyll on the other, all on 180-gram color vinyl in a sleeve with artwork from Stephen Kasner. The first Aun track, "Druids," is a hypnotic take on Hawkwind-era space rock by way of more recent Jesu, with big, floaty guitars droning and buzzing over a heavy beat until it eventually all dissolves in clouds of beatless ambient dissonance and melancholy guitar buzz. On "Fall Out," the deep drone and space-rock motifs continue, this time wrapped in nostalgia for krautrock rather than the hippified sound of British acid-eaters. Guitars weaned on cosmic funk meet stuttering industrial drum rhythms as clanging sounds and swirling noises billow past like poisoned, radioactive clouds while eerie and beautiful harmonic chords accent the rhythm section; call it space rock by way of the Velvet Underground fantasizing about taking over Tangerine Dream to pay homage to Kraftwerk. All this cosmic frippery, while mesmerizing and utterly swell, does not even begin to prepare you for the sonic horror of the flip side, where the 23-plus minutes of Habsyll's "IV" will remind you of how much the music world lost when Khanate bit the dust a while back. Dark ambient horror divorced from the tyranny of recognizable tempos and leavened with lots of pained shrieking beneath the satanic amp buzz will crush your tiny, worthless soul into a smear of bloody paste. There are beats, but they appear at the most unexpected moments, they utterly fail to cohere into something resembling an actual rhythm most of the time, and are swallowed by chaotic feedback; there's plenty of effect-heavy guitar sound, but it's not a sound guided by riffs or melody or anything other than pure ambient hell. At times the ambient horror resolves into crushing waves of sound that decay endlessly into noise-laden vistas of howling feedback, and there are times when a glacial, minimalist rhythm is apparent, but that's the closest the band ever comes to resembling anything even remotely normal. Unquestionably influenced by Khanate, this is nevertheless even more experimental and extreme than that band's apocalyptic sound. Unlike that band, though, the vocals -- when they appear -- are never anything more than horrifying shrieking and psychotic howling; this is post-everything doom at its most ethereal and abstract. The cumulative effect of all three tracks is pure greatness. Limited to 500 copies.
Guinea Worms -- SORCERERS OF MADNESS (4RD YEAR IN A ROW!) 2 x lp [Colombus Discount Records]
It's hard to believe this band has been around for over a decade and are just now getting around to releasing a debut album. (To be fair, they do have a fair handful of singles in existence to document their evolution.) This album was conceived in early 2008 after their single "Box of Records" turned out to be fastest-selling record in the label's history; it's taken this long for it to materialize because when the label asked head Worm Will Foster for some material, he sent in twelve cd-rs (!!!) of material apparently so swell that it took the label a year just to pare it down to two lps. The result is 22 stellar tracks of noisy, trashed-out garage rock parceled out over four sides of heavy, heavy vinyl. The band's aesthetic is heavily influenced by the Fall, especially that band's fondness for repetition and gross, noisy sound, but it's filtered through the punk history of the Columbus area. The sound on most of the songs here is gloriously loud and lo-fi, all trashy drums and improbably fuzzed-out guitars, and filled with surprises like the rockabilly rhythms of "Kick in the Door" and the slow, droning doom of "Never Giving Up." Fake Mellotron sounds show up on "The Trail" and "Maggot Therapy" features a wheezing keyboard and a groove that won't quit; "Apples in the Oatmeal" has one of the most fried-sounding synths ever. The songs are brilliant and twisted, the sound is tense and torqued; the album is a winner from start to finish. Mondo bonus points for the cryptic and often funny song notes from Foster. Now for the bad news: the four-sided masterpiece, limited to a run of 550 copies, is already sold out. Fortunately for you, CDR is already doing the mystic mumbo-jumbo necessary to make a second pressing materialize. Don't be a fool: pick up a copy when the new pressing lands.
Columbus Discount Records
Nekrasov / Aderlating -- split lp [Chrome Leaf Records]
Nasty, nasty, nasty... this is a split album that will give you nightmares or a headache, if not both. Australian one-man noise terrorist Nekrasov takes up nearly 24 minutes of the first side with "Qualities of Being Futile and Valueless," an exercise in growing sheets of encrusted noise and squelched bursts of vocal hate. The scab-encrusted noise is eventually drenched in reverb and takes on a dark droning quality, while the grotesque, stunted vocals continue to deliver stabbing bursts of vitrol on a regular basis. The vocal emanations remain static, but the sound drifts and winds, builds and decays, with a sound that's cold and indifferent, like a black wind howling through vast subterranean tunnels littered with dust and bones. It's all about the darkness; there's no light here, just 24 minutes of churning sonic dread. On the flip side, Aderlating's sonic deviance is cut up into three slices -- one over ten minutes, the other two each around six and a half -- and since this is the brainchild of the same demented mind responsible for Gnaw Their Tongues, it is hardly surprising that the sound is dark, noise-laden, and drone-heavy. It's also fraught with sonic perversity and chaotic sounds clanking in the background; lots of lo-fi lo-end tape hell, shuddering death grunt, psychotic hell voices, and other equally scary stuff floating in and out of the mix. The three tracks are essentially variations on the same aesthetic, an aesthetic rooted in the deep desire to lull you into a dreamlike state that culminates in nightmares that make you piss in your panties. This what we in the Bible belt call diabolical shit, dude. If you're down with Gnaw Their Tongues, Khanate, Habsyll, that sort of thing, then you'll definitely want to scope this out. Limited to 300 copies on translucent dark green spatter vinyl.
Chrome Leaf Records
Nudge Squidfish -- TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER NASHVILLE lp [Columbus Discount Records]
The bizarrely-named Nudge Squidfish is Al Martin plus assorted guests, and this album is actually a throwback to 1985, when Martin was hiding out in Nashville and sending cassette after cassette of eclectic psych-pop material back to his pals Mike Rep and Tommy Jay in Harrisburg, OH. As it happens, Rep was in the process of starting up his cassette label OA/NA (Old Age / No Age), and this became that label's first release. Now, 25 years later, you can relive the magic on high-quality vinyl. Five of the eighteen songs on this album are covers, but the rest are all highly personal and memorable originals, with a sound resembling a punked-out, lo-fi, midwestern answer to the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, with occasional nods to the likes of Red Krayola, the more out-there moments of Brian Wilson, and a touch of Suicide just for kicks. The songs here are a compelling mix of lo-fi pop and psychedelic gauze, made more muscular by an eccentric style and rocking four-track sound. This is a strong collection of tunes, most likely because it was culled from a much larger collection (much like the Guinea Worms double-album reviewed elsewhere in this post), and the no-frills production and bedroom sound make it warm and inviting. Fans of acid-fried lo-fi music should want to hear this. Limited to 500 copies and remastered from the original cassette by Mike Rep.
Columbus Discount Records
Rot Shit -- "Dead I" 7" [Columbus Discount Records]
This is what they cal raunchy -- fizzy, treble-heavy guitars, a snotty drummer hammering out a nasty sexbeat, and some dude yelling in the background, barely audible over the barbed-wire guitar and jackboot-heavy beat. "Dead I" is a howling slice of punk rock declaring that punk rock is dead even while proving there's life left in the idiom; call it irony or cognitive dissonance, either way it's intended to make your hips shake while giving you a massive headache. Bonus points for the totally tinnitus-inducing guitar feedback that ends the song. On the flip side, "Hipster Grandma" is faster and every bit as obnoxious, while "Local Band Forever" is even faster and driven by a guitar with the treble jacked up so high it sounds like someone frantically sawing away at sheet metal with a set of tin shears. Short and to the point; loud and deliberately irritating enough to piss off your neighbors and your landlord. Dig it, punk childe. Dig it good. Just remember, you lose cool points if you reach for the earplugs.
Columbus Discount Records
v/a -- KARL ROVE: COURAGE AND CONSEQUENCE (UNABRIDGED AUDIO) lp [Seismic Wave Entertainment]
Following in the tradition of great (and righteously angry) punk compilations like LET THEM EAT JELLYBEANS, this album -- inspired by the recent autobiography of former Bush administration policy architect Karl Rove -- assembles a series of songs by thirteen bands offering a visceral and aggravated response to Rove's version of history. With titles like "The Art of Distraction," "The Biggest Asshole in the World," and "Lies, and the Lying Liars That Sell Them," it's pretty obvious that the members of these bands are not terribly impressed with Rove's book or the man himself; given that the Bush, Jr. administration is already regarded by many pundits and historians as one of the most spectacularly inept and mismanaged administrations in White House history and that Rove was the primary thinker behind the administration's biggest policy failures, it's not terribly surprising that the bands involved with this compilation would be less than impressed with Rove's spin on the administration's accomplishments. You can thank Victory and Associates guitarist Conan Neutron (Replicator, Mount Vicious) for the concept and assembly of this album, and bands like The Heavenly States, Lambs of Abortion, Cartographer, Generalissimo, Hurry Up Shotgun, and Victory and Associates for the pungent sounds of political dissatisfaction buried in the grooves. As compilations go, this is a pretty solid one -- the bands are largely obscure and lean toward the punk / metal spectrum of sound, but the songs are good and, as one might expect from such a venture, severely impassioned. The album's high quality level is even more impressive when you consider that it was assembled fairly quickly and the songs, as far as I know, were all written and recorded specifically for this compilation. The album also includes a four-page booklet listing information regarding the bands and their tracks, plus three illuminating essays / broadsides from the Rude Pundit, Jason Myers (author of EXIT HERE and THE MISSION), and the aforementioned Conan Neutron. The essays, like the songs, exist mainly to kick sand in Karl's face. How much that (and the album in general) appeals to you will probably have a lot to do with your politics, but even the most apolitical listeners can get behind the intensity of the songs on this album. For more information on how to get your own copy (and to hear samples, etc.), hit the link provided below.
Karl Rove album website
Seismic Wave Entertainment
Zu -- THE WAY OF THE ANIMAL POWERS lp [Public Guilt]
Named after a divine storm bird of Akkadian mythology and formed as a trio in Rome in 1997, Zu has spent the past decade combining elements of metal, free jazz, no-wave noise, and pure improvised madness to create strange musical statements documented on over fifteen releases (and that's not even counting the work of side projects like Black Engine, Dimension X, OFFONOFF, and several others). Prolific in releases and seismic in sound, Zu has a talent for triangulating the more accessible elements of free jazz, punk, and metal and distilling that sound into something both genuinely weird and simultaneously accessible. Their drum 'n bass action is also augmented by the appearance of saxophones and cello (courtesy of guest Fred Lomberg-Holm, a jazz and improv player from Chicago), and comparisons to Painkiller are probably inevitable, but Zu are nowhere near as savage as the band led by John Zorn and Mick Harris.
This release, named after the mythology series by noted historian Joseph Cambpell (best known for THE MASKS OF GOD), is not technically new; it was originally released on cd by the now-defunct Italian label Xeng. This is the album's first U.S. appearance, however, and appears this time on 180-gram swirled vinyl, remastered by James Plotkin (Khanate, OLD, Jodis, blah blah blah), and in a beyond-swank gatefold sleep with artwork by the Italian artist Scarful. I don't know if it's a limited release or not, but the packaging for this album is exceptional, and the label is also making a related t-shirt available for a limited time.
First and foremost, the band get approximately a zillion bonus points for having a song (the first one, as it happens) called "Tom Araya Is Our Elvis." It doesn't hurt that the track is both heavy and whacked-out, either, with gut-wrenching bass throb and circling, frantic drums. The tracks that follow are short, like this one -- the longest one, "Shape Shifting," is just a little over three and a half minutes -- and filled with bizarre sonic abstractions on top of the free-jazz rhythm section doodling. "Anatomy of a Lost Battle" features a deeply strange vocal sample and weird, noise-laden effects, while "Shape Shifting" has the sax and cello improvising over a groovy and relatively straightforward rhythm of percolating beats and crunge-laden bass lines. "The Aftermath" is more sedate, less about rhythm and piledriving, more about melancholy bleating, but "Things Fall Apart," the final track on the A-side, brings back the crunch and the rolling waves of rhythmic madness. The tracks on the flip side are every bit as unhinged as the first ones -- "The Witch Herbalist of the Remote Town" is the jazziest, with the horns tripping on the sounds of the sixties while the rhythm section locks into a looped groove from which the bass lines occasionally deviate in perverse fashion. The sonic experimentation continues apace, culminating in the final track, "Every Seagull Knows," where sounds of the ocean fade into buzzing noise guitar that abruptly segues into busy improv moves accompanied by actual vocals; the swirling, rolling sound blusters on for several minutes until it comes to a halt, returning to the sound of the ocean, fading out on water and seagulls.