REVIEW: Ghösh – Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em / Beelzebub (2020)

Is this America’s answer to the UK’s notorious Grime school? If so, I’m along for the ride.

Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em is weird, truly. Ghösh brings the “Rap Rock and the Jungle” in a sort of inverse Pop Will Eat Itself fashion. Sonic aesthetics that seem strange and out of place at first meld together better and better with each listen.

The single’s samples blur your surroundings as they spin by. Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em is an Atlantic hurricane of grime and grit, ecstaticized by its EDM elements and delivering Rock and Industrial aggression. You can feel the electricity in the air.

B-side Beelzebub is perhaps the most American song I’ve ever heard (in a good way). It may be difficult to see anything that’s not more overtly political (such as leading track Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em) as encapsulating the current American cultural milieu, but someone may need to show their grandkids this song in about 50 years and lay it out for them. Right now, it’s the Nu School’s world, and we’re just living in it.

For fans of: Machine Girl, M-Beat, The Crystal Method

Like Ghösh? Give these a listen: Wiley aka Eskiboy, Pop Will Eat Itself, this Techno remix of WAP…

REVIEW: Rhode & Brown – Joyride EP (2013)

The Joyride EP is a 2013 release by Munich based duo Rhode & Brown. Released on the prolific Toy Tonics label out of Berlin, it seems as if Joyride may rely more on its geographic association than sonic connection.

Under Your Spell is a cool and controlled 5 minute bop of near-sterile Deep House. It’s repetitive as one would expect and acts as a decent warm up to what could be a tight electric joint. But Under Your Spell’s following Kyodai Remix is noisier, clunkier. It’s a nice textural change, but does little in engaging the listener in the song’s chord progression. The choice to switch to a heavy-handed piano sound brings more attention to its repetitive nature, and contributes to a more disjointed element across the album.

Titular track Joyride starts off with a chopped and wailing vocal hook and massive kicks. It’s not bad, but this new found energy comes across a bit awkward after the Under Your Spell set.

Closing track Floating Figures shows the album’s return to its initial Deep House sterility: emotionally repressed, cool and collected.

The album itself is a half-mellow excursion into noncommittal electronic music. Joyride EP is Greatly lacking in Electronic’s rhythmic power over the body, a demand for the music to take control, an unconscious connection to groove.

For fans of: St. Germain, DJ Boring, Ross From Friends

Like Rhode & Brown? Give these a listen: Peggy Guo, Camomile Dawn, e•motion

REVIEW: Liquid Flesh – Chair Liquide (2020)

Liquid Flesh put a fresh breath of life back into Thrash Metal with their 2020 release Chair Liquide. Hailing from Grenoble, France, the trio is a dynamic three-pronged powerhouse dedicated to the finer things in life: b-movies, melting faces, and Twin Peaks.*

The band’s mid tempo brand of Death-infused Thrash Metal has a degree of groove and intricate tune weaving reminiscent of Pig Destroyer guitarist Scott Hull. This is perfectly exemplified on 4th track Toxic Blues, which sounds like Ward 6 or even Prowler-era Pig Destroyer slowed down to almost half speed.

The album is beautiful, and is doesn’t heed the beyond well-beaten path of their Thrash Metal lineage. Chair Liquide is a cohesive collection of well-crafted songs that will make you reevaluate (or re-appreciate) the state of Thrash Metal. They may be a little slow for Cannibal Corpse fans, but their dynamic appeal can reach across the many camps of metal music with relative ease.

Fun fact: Grenoble, France is sister cities with Phoenix, AZ here in the states. I knew it, and now you know it. Congrats!

*Why Twin Peaks seemingly has such a large fan base among the French music scene I don’t know, but I highly respect it. If you’re interested in that sort of thing, I highly recommend our guide to The Fast Paced, Lighthearted World of DOOM JAZZ.

For fans of: Bolt Thrower, Pig Destroyer, Celtic Frost

Like Liquid Flesh? Give these a listen: Ghoul, Vio-Lence, Power Trip

REVIEW: Slow Blink – Pangea (2021)

Pangea is the 2021 full-length single by Chattanooga, TN based artist Amanda Haswell under the alias Slow Blink. Self described as “tape loop weather patterns,” there’s never been a more appropriately titled release for such a monolithic work.

Originally performed at Electric Arcadia Festival IV in Sewanee, TN earlier this year, Pangea towers above all live deconstructed musical performances. Hearing Slow Blink embrace longer, more struggling work only fuels the richly saturated, meditative states which they craft so well.

Is it a dirge? A death knell? Pangea’s engulfing state feels beyond the funeral status of their Doom Metal contemporaries. This is grief! This is reckoning! And at times, we find ourselves adrift in a state of incomprehensible aura.

You could call it an emotional or spiritual truth. I call that good art.

For fans of: Chelsea Wolfe, Grouper, Susumu Yokota

Like Slow Blink? Give these a listen: Iosu Vakerizzo, Nortt, Soy Fan Del Dark

REVIEW: Pleasure Venom – Pleasure Venom (2018)

Pleasure Venom is the 2018 self-titled release by Austin, TX based “experimental garage punk outfit” Pleasure Venom.

Right off the bat, Pleasure Venom unabashedly provokes an image of the very ‘in’ gothic aesthetics, though doesn’t utilize them in any particularly meaningful way. From the Birthday Party-esque guitar cacophony on Gunt to a general rundown of Robert Smith’s pedalboard effects (tremolo, flange, reverb, you can guess the rest) across the entire album, none of these aesthetics serve the particular songs all that well.

The 6 track album is a mixture of stomp and romp punk pub rock and goth dance rhythms. Everyone is on beat for the most part, and front person Audrey Campbell’s vocal delivery can be quite thrilling (especially on tracks Deth and Untitled). But if you feel underwhelmed while reading this, well, that’s how I felt listening to it.

Closing track Eddy is capped off with a great orchestrated outro, a much needed splash of rich color and depth delivered as a final gesticulation of the death rock aesthetics purported to define the album. I would have loved to see more of this throughout the album, letting the interludes and outros work the album’s aesthetic angle while pushing the songs the band had written a little harder, with less distractions.

Pleasure Venom is a punk record through and through. Perhaps there is a harder Grunge rock sound underlying it all, but experimental and No Wave (as one Bandcamp user called it) it is not.

What can I say? The record is fun, loud, and fast in all the normal places. There isn’t much to take in. Maybe that’s what their audience wants.

For fans of: Secret Shame, Amyl and The Sniffers, Mudhoney

Like Pleasure Venom? Give these a listen: Dame, Scratch Acid, Circus Lupus

REVIEW: Iosu Vakerizzo – The Temple (2019)

Iosu Vakerizzo’s The Temple is a post-exotica ambient terror show in which the exploits of Exotica have since turned over to the horrors of postcolonial reality. Memories of the deceased have now turned aggressor, a classic zombie-infested haunting in which the presence of the dead become apparent in the living’s absence. This is dark ambient music at its finest.

The Temple’s deathly eerie ambience straddles the line between ambient music and soundscape, creating a faux film score element or cinéma de l’esprit. The album’s focus first and foremost is on crafting its eerie aura, which it thrives in. Second to this is the album’s textural feel, and lastly, if ever relevant here, comes musical structure and rhythm. But it is this very ‘lack of presence’ (the presence of more traditional music qualities) which is utilized so effectively.

Vakerizzo’s crafted something particularly special in sonic-miniature. Iosu Vakerizzo’s work is similar to the short films of Jiří Barta, both in their aura and potency. The listener is left wanting more, but it is The Temple’s 16-minute run time which leaves the work both impactful and fulfilling.

The first 4 of 5 songs on the album could be considered the stumbling upon and exploration of the lost world of 1950s Exotica in its present state: resorts now dilapidated, villages abandoned. Exotica’s sonic luxury has since caved way to the unhindered passage of time and ensuing decay. It is the base of the mountain on which the inevitable reckoning of Exotica’s prior colonial approach will take place.

5th and final track Sacrifice To The God of The Mountain is this very mountain. The howling of wind intensifies as tension builds. The drum’s beating is now more present than ever. And before long, a doom wave of layered strings crash and crush down upon us. It’s incredibly heavy in a still way, reminiscent of early Doom Jazz. But it is this new instrumental presence, the weird to Mark Fisher’s eerie, which brings the outside back home.

Sacrifice To The God of The Mountain may quickly ratchet up the album’s previously slow growing tension, but doesn’t lose The Temple’s eerie touch with unwanted answers. The song stops, and the listener is left in deathly silence and grisly terror. In the end, it never quite does. The Temple haunts, lingers, and destroys any perceived innocence of the past.

Iosu Vakerizzo’s The Temple is a must listen for those looking for a new breed of ambient terror, doom, and sonic tension.

If you enjoyed this, we’d highly recommend our guide to The Fast Paced, Lighthearted World of DOOM JAZZ.

For fans of: Dale Cooper Quartet, Arthur Lyman, Sleep Research Facility

Like Iosu Vakerizzo? Give these a listen: Soy Fan Del Dark, Brian J Davis, Robert Drasnin,

REVIEW: Jonny Trunk – Scrap Book (2009)

Scrap Book is the 2009 release by writer and Trunk Records founder Jonathan Benton-Hughes, professionally known as Jonny Trunk.

Disregarding greater compositional structure for works in miniature, Scrap Book is a showcase of dense textural collage. A series of vignettes, a pure charcuterie of sound. Notable standouts from which include the quaint K Piano, the mellow saccharine How Sweet It Is, and the deeply haunting and eerie Snowblind.

On Snowblind, Scrap Book’s clunky cartoon-ish revelry is displaced by the haunting, encroaching exterior world. To paint a mental picture, if Scrap Book was an ensemble-casted cartoon Christmas special in which everyone was snowed in together, Snowblind is a haunting foray into the cold and eerie outside. Disney could never.

While each track is its own little nugget of joy, Scrap Book as a whole will delight you with unease throughout the entire journey.

You can read a magnificent interview with Jonny Trunk over at Aquarium Drunkard.

For fans of: Raymond Scott, Robert Drasnin, Will Powers

Like Jonny Trunk? Give these a listen: Barbed, Mike & Rich, Krypto Grotesk

REVIEW: Pulp – This Is Hardcore (1998)

“Pornography is simply the most familiar visual language through which we appreciate the disparity between the intensity of imagined experienced and the disappointment or disgust of its realisation.” – Hugh Aldersey-Williams on This Is Hardcore from the article Living Dolls, which appeared in New Statesman Magazine, on 8 May 1998.

Riding on the intoxicating waves of britpop and cinema-chic, Pulp’s 1998 release This is Hardcore is an intoxicating ride of pleasure and disappointment. An entire essay could be written about the album’s depiction of consumable sex, narcissistic dissatisfaction, the album’s place in the conversation of sexism within media, and arguing points over intent, self-awareness or lack thereof. That said, I’ll spare you any bigger questions on life and morality in favor of getting on with it.

Almost immediately, This Is Hardcore showcases a tendency to crowd itself. There is little space for songs to breath, which shows both in its ‘don’t bore us, get to the chorus’ song structuring (understandable/forgivable/expected) and corner-cutting song endings.

Opening track The Fear, like much of the album, is much too indebted to this way of song writing to allow itself the room to see its moody composition to fruition. There’s choral arrangements, layers of guitar and then some more layers of guitar, leaving the recording feeling crowded, busy, and at the same time a little flat. Regardless, the actual songwriting across the album is incredibly well crafted. As a result, front-man Jarvis Cocker and crew’s songwriting is, to recontextualize a quote from journalist Edgar Nye, ‘…better than it sounds’.

I feel slightly sorry for the teenager buying this album in a second hand shop, expecting something more, well, hardcore, and hearing a song like Dishes: a mellow pop piece on the doldrums of being 33. But This Is Hardcore makes a lot more sense once having worked one’s way in. It’s an album of repercussions wallowing in melancholy and want.

Uh, hello? Teen angst? Ever heard about it?

The album’s energy takes a step up with Party Hard while simultaneously dating it alongside 90s alternative rock groups EMF and Spacehog. The following Help The Aged does a much better job. By balancing wailing power pop choruses with soft psychedelic lounge-pastiche verses, Help The Aged gives itself room to breath while continuing to apply layer and layer of sound.

Music video for title track This Is Hardcore, directed by Doug Nichol.

The album’s titular track may be the best singular work on this album. This Is Hardcore is an incredibly dark song. Taking a steady 2 minutes 30 seconds to reach its first chorus, its repetitive motif does more to help the song breath slowly and fully until reaching a magnificent… er, climax, nearly 2 minutes later before its emotional downward spiral: a clearing of the fog of fame and the burnout which succeeds it.

Jarvis Cocker has been on record about the song’s meaning a few times, albeit different angles: a song literally about porn, about fame, society’s aggressive appetite for ‘new faces’, the thrill of burning bridges and so on and so forth. Regardless, the emotional sleaze and excitement of excess followed by destructive fallout is a transition perfectly exemplified in the synthetic melting tones of the song’s outro, which leads into the introductory cold drone of following track TV Movie.

Even across its Beatles-inspired pop rock, TV Movie’s bleakness further reveals the emotional fall-out of narcissistic-consumptive pleasure: the depressive sense of isolation and dissatisfaction.

A Little Soul, however heartfelt, is too cheesy for me to be caught listening to. And from here This Is Hardcore seems to drift out of focus, until its rallying finale. This could have been an album of exemplary pop writing had it reallocated some of its space to letting its songs breath, and perhaps trimmed the fat. Even with a stream of fairly consistent hitters, This Is Hardcore is bloated, which makes the work susceptible to becoming banal. That is to say, from A Little Soul to The Day After The Revolution should have been lifted and reconfigured to their own release, leaving Like A Friend to close the album after TV Movie. Perhaps in this process, the masters to songs like A Little Soul and Glory days could have been destroyed in a fire, leaving all traces of the songs lost to time…

The age of the CD lead to the exploitation of new possibility, which in turn lead to occasional negligence of the art being created for that medium. This tends to happen whenever there is a new medium or fashion of doing things. But this was only the first step in the slow expedition of digital possibilities. More recently, Kanye West – Life of Pablo (2016) became infamous for this very neglect. Having taken advantage of digital possibility, the album was only finished months after its release. This brought into question the criteria of what finished or completed an album and if we had possibly surpassed the age of the solid album.

This Is Hardcore‘s recording sessions spanned from November 1996 to January 1998, and upon its original release didn’t feature one of my favorite songs on the album, Like A Friend. For clarity, I reviewed the non-deluxe version of This Is Hardcore that was available on the Apple Music store (can’t we just call it iTunes?) in October of this year. But what does this mean for reviewing work? What constitutes an album in the post-artifact age? Going forth, how do we group parts of a larger work? What IS mu-… no, I said I wouldn’t go there. Right then. Getting on with it;

There is absolutely amazing work to be found on This Is Hardcore, but as a collection of work it has a tendency to get in its own way. I’m (figuratively) curious what the outtakes of this album have to offer, but I sense the truth is they’re still very much present.

For fans of: Blur, Portishead, Spacehog

Like Pulp? Give these a listen: EMF, The Good The Bad & The Queen, Sparks

REVIEW: King Kashmere – Soul Calibur (2021)

He’s back!

Iguana Man is back with his first solo material since 2010’s Galaktus LP! He hasn’t been sleeping though. With projects like Strange U, Gawd Status, and features galore, Kashmere is seemingly busier than ever.

Work ethic not wasted. Kashmere has refined his sound over the past decade, and it shows on Soul Calibur. His delivery is stronger than ever and displays the calm control only an MC two decades deep could. Soul Calibur is a beautiful work of music and it makes me excited to listen to hip-hop again during a period of my life in which I’m too glum to get into much of anything.

Soul Calibur’s instrumentation was produced by Alecs DeLarge and brings the criminally smooth lounge sound. Vibraphones, flutes, snappy snares and kicks; it’s perfect. Watch the music video, then go cop this bad boy on Bandcamp or stream it on Spotify.

For fans of: Kool Keith, Strange U, Danny Brown

Like Kashmere? Give these a listen: Third Sight, Organized Konfusion, buddy.not.bud

REVIEW: Family Fun – Record (1981)

You read that right, folks. Record is the 1981 release by Boston avant-aware new wave group Family Fun. A project of Arf! Arf! Records owner Erik Lindgren, the band consists of Sara Goodman (vocals), Russ Smith (bass, vocals), Erik (Moogs, keys, theremin) and Rusty Lindgren (guitar, vocals),

Family Fun kicks off Record with opening track Games. Surf-y guitar and bass reminiscent of The B-52s is punctuated by agile drum-machine patterns. It’s fun, if not a little predictable at first.

Sara Goodman’s rock vocals are somewhat reminiscent of Missing Persons, while Russ Smith’s bass playing is notable across the entire album. This provides some steadiness to the avant garde antics of the Lindgren siblings, a necessary contrast keeping things from going too far one way or the other.

This contrast in steadiness and chaos makes Family Fun stand out from others’ forays into new wave. Family Fun is part Devo, part Suburban Lawns, and part outsider music. It’s interesting and exciting to hear the risks taken by Family Fun, as they have held up incredibly well.

That’s not to say Record is a masterwork waiting to be rediscovered and put atop the throne of music revisionism. The a-side comes with the trappings of new wave in 1981. Its compositions in rock can be a little predictable for the time, while tonal aesthetics haven’t aged well either. Simply put, often the song writing isn’t quite strong enough to break away from the rabble of new wave.

That is until we get to the b-side: EZ Listening Music.

“WARNING: Do Not Listen To This Side.” The behemoth of a track totals out with a 16 minute run time, the b-side’s label adorned with the aforementioned warning. EZ Listening Music slowly swells into being like the beauty of day break underscored by looming anxiety of life. Sara Goodman’s spoken monologues pin an all too real human element. Guitar strings are held on, agitated more than strummed while blips of Moogs and other electronics tweak in and out of ear shot. All of this underscored by slow swelling bass guitar. Ultimately, the song’s direction finds itself much like a movie score.

“Elevator music for 1990. Right, Erik?” is etched on the b-side runout. I can’t even imagine.

For fans of: Devo, Missing Persons, The B-52s

Like Family Fun? Give these a listen: Suburban Lawns, The Waitresses, Tones on Tail

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