Preface: in an effort to get current with reviews, we’re going to do some blogging for a bit to try something new and spread it out some (and buy some more time). This time around it’s playing catch-up with zines that people have been nice enough to send us, followed with the first of some regional band/label review sections. To start it’s New Haven, CT. Following this will be an All Canada section, then a Locals Only section (meaning WNY/Rochester), then an all reissues section focusing on 7″es. I’ll go out on a limb and say this should all happen in the next two weeks, followed with a lengthy traditional-format reviews section. In print news, Termbo #3 and Giant Sized Best of Termbo will be out in time for the holidays. On with the show….
PRO TIP: a good many of these zines are available via FEEL IT distro along with a good selection of tapes and records as well.
CASTING COUCH – formed from the ashes of Rubberneck, with the same driving forces (Miranda Fisher and Jon Chamberlin) behind it with the roles reversed (I believe) – this being Miranda’s vision and more text based than Jon’s more photo-driven zine. Already on to issue #2, which is exceptional and already shows the zine upping the ante from issue #1 (which was mighty fine in its own right – hey, any zine that is foolish enough to think interviewing the Termbo guy is a good idea…). Issue 2’s highlights include an interview with Ned Hayden that would make you believe he’s a pretty good guy (love ya Ned!) at least until he gets in an anti-Gerard Cosloy rant (and classy move on CC’s part in granting Gerard a rebuttal), wherein things get pretty interesting and as whole this interview includes far more Liz Phair content than I was expecting. I will say that the Gerard vs. Ned argument gives one food for thought – or at least a few laughs – in thinking what your own part in the demise of punk rock has been – and I’m fairly sure we’re all guilty. The Ryan Richardson interview further illuminates the life’s work of one of the nicest guys in the game, a man who is perhaps the only innocent one in the who-is-killing-punk debate. Another very nice installment in the zine’s angle to try and talk to some of the people active in the “scene” who actually aren’t in bands. The Home Blitz interview is very welcome and gets us up to speed with Daniel Dimaggio now that ‘Foremost and Fair’ is available and the band seems to be back in the ring after a bit of a hiatus – and the conversation is very DD, in that you become aware that even though we know DD/HB is some of the greatest of modern music, as an artist there is always self-doubt and obsession over the presentation of art. It’s what makes people like Daniel’s music fascinating and enjoyable. On the other side of the spectrum you have an interview with Foster Care, who sound like a bunch of obnoxious dicks and probably put as much thought into their LP as Daniel put into one guitar track on his new record. But hey, some bands are all about blustering around chaotically and some aren’t – we need both kinds. New Zealand’s ambassador the US Michael McClelland contributes a piece about the worst-named band since Bed Wettin’ Boys, that being Girls Pissing on Girls Pissing, and while I’m not so much a fan it at least was an interesting read. And speaking of interesting reads, Sarim’s ‘Get Quapped’ column this issue is his most abstruse piece yet. I’m a big fan of Miranda’s reviews (and I like that she writes the whole section, as a consistent voice is a must for a worthwhile reviews) and agree with her most of the time – and I enjoy that she actually writes bad reviews when deserved, even for records on labels that advertise in the mag. I crave integrity in print, and I think that speaks volumes. (#2 available here, you might get lucky and find a distro/store with the last copies of #1)
BULL TONGUE REVIEW – Already up to issue #3 for BTR, the ‘Quarterly Journal of Post-Rock Cultural Pluralism’ whatever the fuck that means. The concept of each issue is Byron and Thurston continuing their Bull Tongue column from Arthur for the first dozen pages or so, covering everything from Termbo friendly fare (Total Punk releases, Termbo zine itself, 12XU and ITR releases, punk/garage reissues of note, etc.) to free jazz and noise and other kling-klangy things. The rest of the issue is one review/article apiece from their hand-selected group of cool dudes and gals who take on the task of talking about anything – absolutely anything at all: old and new movies, youtube videos, restaurants, live shows, other people, you name it. Some have contributed fiction, poetry, personal anecdotes. Real eclectic stuff, all with illustrations by Ted Lee (a nice touch, I have to say). Makes for a good read I suppose, but in the last one I just started skipping some of the more esoteric pieces. The highlights are of course Tom Lax talking about records you wished you owned, Chris D talking about movies you want to see, Michael Hurley talking about anything and really most of the reviews that talk about actual music/records. The cast will be familiar if you’ve ever read Forced Exposure or other zines of the time – Stigliano, Flowers, Gregg Turner (!), Ira Kaplan, Panter, Savage Pencil (!!), Tesco (!!!!) have all appeared, plus a dose of WFMU crew (Brian Turner’s have been some of the most enjoyable in the zine as a whole), Feeding Tube people (Owen Maercks is good too) and other celebrities (Albini, Alan Bishop, Carducci, Meltzer, Carver, Bruce Russell) and a lot of names you’ll recognize but not realize why. The issues seem to be getting thicker as we go on, and I will admit that each new issue is eagerly anticipated here at HQ. At first the side-stapled 8.5×11 format really bugged me, but I guess I don’t mind so much after all – it’s cheap and easy I suppose. I think #1 is already OOP, you should stay on top of this one. (Issue 4 out now via Forced Exposure)
CRETINS OF DISTORTION – C.O.D. #7 is out, and it is a whopper. As I’ve stated before, COD is hands down the best zine in America today, and the content in this latest one is to die for: Ron House/Mike Rep interview, a Robert Griffin interview (Scat Records) which focuses on Spike in Vain and hints at some reissues coming soon, a chat with the guy who did The Offense newsletter (I am in need of any/all copies of this rag, please get in touch if youre holding) and is just an all-Ohio issue overall, with talk about just about every band fron Ohio ever, filled with great pics and fliers. Oh yeah, and since the format changes every issue, this one is 8.5×14 – the long way with sidestaples. I love it. Layout is incredible cut-n-paste that packs the pages plus great use of hand-writing, rub-on letters and of course some rubber stamping. Issues 4 through 7 are still available via their store (and some come with companion tapes if you get in early) and I highly suggest you buy them all immediately. Rumor also has it that the early issues/best of will be reprinted at some point. #1 zine in the world. (Bug Cartel)
HARDCORE ARCHITECTURE – If you’ve been following the incredible Hardcore Architecture tumblr, which is one of the few uses of tumblr I actually “get”, you might like to know that Half Letter Press/Marc Fischer have some print available as well, including a zine version of some of the posts, plus “issues” that feature photographer Bill Daniel and Les Evans of Cryptic Slaughter thus far, along with other related pamphlets and prints. Impeccably done (some on risograph) and they make a nice physical companion to the site. (Half Letter Press)
STITCHES IN MY HEAD – SIMH #8 is the latest in this Australian-living-in-Cleveland penned zine, and since those two areas are probably most responsible for my favorite music of all time, I find some common ground here of course. This issue has a very short Gibbous interview that actually explains a lot about the mysterious Spotted Race project. Some show/record/zine reviews in column form, a handy discography of ADK/AA and Dogma releases (that I feel I’ve seen somewhere else…), a review of the ‘Who Are You Mr. Node’ film and an enjoyable Sex Dwarf tour diary (meaning I liked reading it even though I’m not that into the band). The Not Horriblefest coverage was disappointing (more talk about bands, less about how drunk you got) but overall I always dig this zine – it’s a quick read that is always high on enthusiasm. Get it via Feel It.
DEGENERATE – #16 is out and as always is a pleasure to read. I mean, I don’t even like Crudos that much, but I like reading about Martin’s life/stories. I always enjoy reading Sam’s intellectual reviews of punk and hardcore, for as eggheaded as they get there’s actual substance to them and they more often than not provide some interesting angles to instigate thought. Sam’s not afraid to poke or provoke (as witnessed via some verbal jabbing with both MRR and Laura Pall Mall) and his intellectual tangents regarding things that at surface level are just “dumb punk” certainly lead you down some thought provoking roads, and I find myself agreeing with his piece on the current state of print zines (plus he colors his essays with the right amount of punk reference points to not go totally academic – and thus totally snoozy) – relating it to Great Plains’ “Letter to a Fanzine” certainly wins my heart, but his argument is sound as well. Great review of the great film Nightcrawler and he speaks at length about the Noise in My Head book – again, I feel very similarly to his viewpoints, although I’m surprised he likes it as much as he does (i.e. more than me). He did make me think of it in the right context though – as a really big and expensive zine more than a definitive take on modern Australian rock. Anyway, a print issue of L’Etrenegade (the title for you pretentious folks out there) is always worth the few bucks – it might actually make you think about what we’re all doing here and why. (Some back issues still available and #17 in now out as well in the form of an LP from Mansion)
FORDAMNING FANZINE – Small-sizer out of Sweden that’s done very well, nice clean cut-n-paste layout and nice printing job. Much of the content is out of my comfort zone, dealing predominantly in noise and connected experimental sub-genres, but touching on at least a few items of interest in each issue. It’s well written enough to encourage a full read through though, and hey, I even learned a few things. The author shows great interest in the modern print zine and the reviews are much appreciated as are the heavy focus on cassettes. Most interesting pieces thus far are NZ-oriented, in particular the long article on Bruce Russell’s Corpus Hermeticum label in issue 7 and the short Sandra Bell appreciation that ends #5. And don’t get excited at the chances of reading a long Black Humor piece – this is one’s about blackhumoUr, a totally different kling-klang outfit (which might interest you more anyway, who knows). Good stuff though (#7 in particular) even though I’ve never heard of 75% of the bands/artists included before I’m always eager to expand my horizons, much like the author seems to be regarding the bands Termbo covers. (Dischi Del Barone)
THE ATOMIC ELBOW – There aren’t many wrestling fanzines around these days surprisingly enough (for now at least…and if there are some others to check out please let us know) which makes Atomic Elbow that much more necessary. It’s written by passionate fans in true fanzine style, which is much appreciated, and I heartily recommend every issue. The website lists content for each (I think he’s up to 14 now), and the reviews of old matches/PPVs are generally funny and a breeze to read. Interviews, coverage of the indies, comics and all that good stuff. The world needs more rasslin’ zines like this. By the way, have you looked at an issue of PWI lately? Total garbage. (Atomic Elbow blog/store)
THE ENTHUSIAST – Here’s a novel idea – a pdf zine you can e-mail the editor for the file of and then print your own copy. Genius. Issue 1 has an interview with Bay Area rapper City P, some weird shit about prime number spirals I’m not even sure is accurate, a Rob Vertigo appearance, The Swimming Pigs of Exuma (not a band), and a very good Q&A with Matt from Yellow Green Red/Pissed Jeans. Add in some reviews of old random records and some other weirdness and you should be e-mailing akatron-at-gmail.com for your copy now. PS – the editor is one of the guys from Yi if that helps. #2 out now –
PUS – “Cleveland only!” says the cover. I’m in! This thing is sloppy as hell which is a bit of a waste considering the cash the slick color covers and copies must have cost, but it’s from Clevo so it all makes some sort of dumb sense. Mostly hand-written, includes John Morton and Craig Bell interviews, comics and a hard to read but pretty good reviews section heavy on the hardcore. Highlight is of course the Food Fortunata interview by Mr. California. Wow. (nwardcomics-at-gmail.com)
SAVAGE DAMAGE DIGEST – I’ve been far too slow in reviewing these zines, but Savage Damage is another of the best out there. #4 has a KILLER Chuck Biscuits triple threat article, an excellent Beyond the Implode interview, blows the lid off The Subtractions (just reissued/unleashed on vinyl via Hozac), killer Eels content from that lunatic Brian McMahon and even an appearance by local Buffalo legend Mr. Ski-Mask. All of that stuff is so great I forgive Corey for the Giuda article. Also of note is the small size pub of an SF East Bay scene history (1950-1980) by Linstrum, which is #2 in the series – high quality stuff about obscure SF rockers and garagers that’s a pleasure to read. Available via microcosm publishing and the Savage Damage store.
JIM SHEPARD: NEGOTIATE NOTHING – We’ve reviewed some Nix Comics in the past – good stuff, they do a quarterly book and plenty of other neat stuff (check out Do You Remember Rock’n’Roll Record Stores written by Bela of Anyway Records), but this Jim Shepard issue (also written by Bela – and you should really follow his blog if you love Columbus, the Nineties and Jerry Wick) goes above and beyond. A recollection of Jim’s life, art and impact on the world via a part comic, part biographical short story, part fliers/photos/ephemera collection publication. I imagine that if you’re reading this Jim Shepard is already a part of your life and this is an essential document no matter how well or little you already know his story. Hopefully this inspires more reissues of his tapes and art/zines and perhaps gets the long awaited “return” of Iron Press moving along… (Nix Comics)
NO FRIENDS – The Lumpy/Ausmuteants split flexi that comes with the debut issue of this zine is fucking awesome….One of the (many, many) columnists in this issue talks about wrestling and makes a reference to Termbo via Layaway Butch’s profile pic of Dirty Dutch…?! The Ausmuteants interview (man these kids are everywhere) is pretty entertaining. The Scharpling interview is awkward. The Slugbugs interview is of interest as it’s Em from Cretins of Distortion (under the pseudonym Guitar Hero) and they talk about the zine and current Columbus/Clevo stuff a little. I don’t recognize 75% of the 300 bands reviewed/interviewed here, I’m guessing it’s gearing more towards the pop-punk and ex-emo bands spectrum, plus they give the Golden Pelicans a bad review further confusing me. I think this zine’s mission is to be an alternative/competitor to MRR based in the Midwest (the editor is a deposed former MRR coordinator) and the format (including 18! columnists and obligatory Martin Crudos content) and anyone-can-contribute vibe mirror Maximum with a dash of Pork (also interviewed). They appear to be in it for the long haul (they have tons of ads already –and kickstarter-ed this thing as well -) and are offering subscriptions (they are advertising a quarterly publication schedule) – including a Collector’s Scum (sic) sub – and I wish them luck. This one was worth it for the flexi at least. (No Friends)
EXTREME NOISE: 20 YEARS – I’m an asshole, this was sent to me over a year ago and it’s been lost in a stack of old wrestling magazines all this time. The Minneapolis store celebrated its 20th year in 2014, and this well done zine compiles the history of the shop through its workers, owners and customers. I found it more than interesting to read about a place I’ve never been to, as the record store as an essential part of a city’s scene is something we can all relate to. Most of us aren’t lucky enough to have a punk store with this sort of history in their town, but the EN story is encouraging and should inspire you to do whatever you can to keep your own local shop running and vital. The flier collection and live shots of in-store shows are of course much appreciated as is the Felix Havoc content (I’m a big fan). The story told is an interesting narrative but also a good resource for shop owners and punks in general – how they handled and survived the fluctuations in the business (CD boom, CD bust, “vinyl is back”, etc…), having a shop as a collective just seems impossible but they make it work somehow, navigating bizarre customers, thieves, the perils of used record buying and having the store as a show space as well make for good and informative storytelling. It should be noted that EN (via Felix) even assisted Buffalo’s finest store (Spiral Scratch) at its outset. If they still have copies available, get one – partial color, full size, 50+ pages – (Extreme Noise)
PHOTOS/ART/MISC: if you’ve ever been to one of the Total Punk Total Fuck Off fests you’ll understand the need to document what is probably the most essential “fest” of the time, put on by on the best dudes/labels in the game. In TOTAL FUCK OFF II: THE ZINE Jon Chamberlain of Rubberneck/Casting Couch does a great job of mixing posed band photos, action shots and candid photos of the crowd/players, making this a very worthwhile purchase whether you were there or not (sadly I was not in attendance this year) as you can smell the beer and feel the action via the visual story he skillfully tells. Plenty of Gary Wrong (impeccable sideburns) and Buck Biloxi (impeccable haircut) and it’s nice to see next generation kids like Lumpy mixing it up with our “old” pals. Two favorites: meeting of the minds between Ned Hayden and his band for the event and the candid shot of Rich and Denise in the crowd (congrats you guys) almost brings a tear to your eye (also includes Gary Wrong photobomb) (Rubberneck)……COOL DEATH CLUB is a collection of live shots from Tom Bradford (of the Cool Death label) documenting shows from 2009-2013. Since we’ll never see most of these bands, it’s a great way to put some visuals with the records, and the page of fliers is something I always love to see. Full size, 28 pages (available from Feel It)…Kappa Chow are Sackville’s finest band, and I don’t know if this zine has a name, but it’s full of Joe Chamandy’s artwork and scribblings/doodlings, and I liked it so much you should probably be seeing his work in Termbo soon. Full size, 28 pages. B&W (bug Joe for a copy at jchamandy-at-hotmail.com)…SOMETHING TANGIBLE is exactly what its title promises. I have at least a half dozen issues, and they’re sometimes puzzling, sometimes funny and always tangible. Get in touch if you’d like to know more about the people Greg plays horseshoes with (something.tangible.zine-at-gmail.com)….Montreal’s THE FAMINES have put out what they’re calling a “paper LP” – a large newsprint fold-out with graphics/info and a download code on it. Decent Canadian garage-band I suppose, still on the fence on whether this idea is the dumbest thing ever or a slightly novel idea…I guess it’s a little crafty… (thefamines.ca)
FRIENDS/RELATIONS: some Termbros have their own ventures going on these days, starting with GARBAGE DAY from one Rob Vertigo (RSF), compiling his fliers and artwork spanning 20 years. Obviously I’m a fan, and you should bug him to see if he has any more copies available – might be some Bugger Records t-shirts left too – ½ size, 48 pages, B&W (tsfvertigo-at-yahoo.com)….our old pal Get Mugged (BG) has a high quality issue of BUT ME ARE DIFFERENT still available, chock full of his odds and ends from the past few years. A healthy chunk of record reviews, shards of interviews with Love Pork, Narcs, Homostupids and Bloodclot Faggots, fliers, a heartstring pulling diary of the ill-fated Brown Sugar/Flying Trichecos tour (pairs well with the liners from the last BS 7”) and other philosophical investigations. I’ll be honest with you – this kid is pretty smart and one of my favorites to read along with DX and Annesley, and that’s high praise. Wish he would do some more now(Media Schlitz Empire)…. Good old Dave Hyde (DH) has a new one out called TONE DEAF ROOSTER (Destroy What Bores You has apparently been retired) and it was a real treat to find this one in the mailbox. Again, obviously DH is a favorite of mine, his writing is top notch and right up there with my faves of the somewhat-recent-vintage and his taste is impeccable – he’s the guy I often look to and find out about cool shit I don’t know shit about. This issue delivers with some great Half Japanese content (this one involving David Fair’s zines/booklets), Austin poster band Bodily Funktions, some demo reviews, Lllygod Ffyrnig appreciation, a Howard Werth appearance (!) and much more. Dave is one the best “zine guys” I know of (and someone I’ve stolen ideas from) and am proud to have his talents on the TB roster. The layout on this is fantastic (nice use of creative folds/paper size), you should bug him for a copy and help him with his wantlist. (cheaprewards-at-gmail.com)
NEWS & ENDNOTES: big news over at MRR: Brace Belden is back! And if you haven’t been paying attention, MRR has been very decent lately. BB somehow also got a byline in a recent issue of Thrasher via an interview with Total Control…speaking of Australians, there’s no use in my reviewing DISTORT issues, you should just know that it’s essential reading by now. The final issue of LIFE STINKS I LIKE THE KINKS is supposedly coming soon (or out already?) and look out for the DISTORT CLEVELAND zines as well (2 issues so far). Feel It is handling US distro for all DX publications at this point….in more Australian zine-stuff, DOWN & OUT went to a subscribers-only monthly newsletter for the year with a new full size issue slated for early 2016 (Down and Out blog)…NEONS fanzine #2 has been out for a bit from the cracked brain behind SEX BEFORE SUICIDE, and it should whet the appetite of all you out there wishing ANSWER ME! was still around. Sex, sleaze and violence, read it and feel dirty (Neons website) …finally, Jay Hinman looks to have shut the doors on yet another blog. DYNAMITE HEMORRHAGE is no more, and that goes for the print version as well. RIP.
NEW HAVEN, CT. The Elm City. Home of Yale University. I heartily suggest you check some things out before/after these reviews:
– First is Dave Brushback’s review of the same Estrogen Highs tapes, with the added bonus of some scans of the great Estrogen Highs interview he did in his zine INCREMENTAL DECREPITUDE.
– Secondly, Dave Hyde’s interview with Stefan and article on the whole Popeye’s/New Haven scene which also includes the amazing Stefan discography collage by Sarah Janet.
– Ever see/hear the Judge’s Cave Box Set? One of the more essential scene documents I’ve seen produced ever.
– Stay current on things via bookmarking IRRELEVANT FUTURE
Mountain Movers “Death Magic” LP
Dan Greene is sort of a New Haven institution I’m told, a founding member of late Nineties folky/indie-poppers Butterflies of Love (who achieved most of their acclaim in the UK). Sometime after that band’s dissolution Mountain Movers were formed as a vehicle for Greene’s prolific songwriting, as he’s apparently one of those guys who has albums and albums worth of material recorded at home on his 4 track. The band has gone through numerous line-up changes (this one includes members of Estrogen Highs and Medication), this is supposedly their fifth full length, and the first I’ve heard. ‘Death Magic’ is brimming with melancholic indie-rock that I’ve seen described as low-fi, but it’s a bit too clean to qualify under my definition of lo-fi. Quiet might be a better description, minimal even. Strong songwriting is apparent here, but I think an introduction to the band is better served by the three singles reviewed below. Scum stats: 250 copies. (RK)
(Safety Meeting // www.safetymeeting.net)
Mountain Movers – 3xSingles
A singles “series” of sorts from the Car Crash Avoiders label, one release a year from 2011-2013, each one housed in a full color company sleeve.
The first has “I Watch the Sea” which sounds far more potent here than it does on the ‘Death Magic’ LP, recorded at local NH space Popeye’s garage (and actual Popeye’s Chicken converted in a live venue), the bass hums throughout and it has a sticky hook. There’s a cool guitar effect that makes it almost sound like a harmonica for a minute and some good soloing, straight-ahead drum drive and they freak-it-out then break-it-down and bring it back for the finish. Reminds me a bit of a lighter Cheater Slicks type thing. “World What World” is a poppier affair and doesn’t really add to the a solid A-Side vibe started by “I Watch the Sea”. Flip is “I’ve Been to Space” – vox and overall tone get a bit more dramatic for a real downer. I appreciate the desperate plod of the construction (again, similar to Slicks formula a bit) and the guitar work is nicely fried and cracked. 300 copies, small hole 45rpm.
Second single (2012 entry) starts with “Desertion”, a pop-downer with ringing guitar twinkle, some subdued back-up vox that add to the mood. Recorded at Estrogen Highs house, making it a real family affair. It’s trumped by the B-Side though. “Just Summertime” is a pretty gutsy rocker, with down-n-out drum punch that has a heavier presence than on the other tunes thus far, some ghostly vocals give it a truly dark feel (instead of depressed/melancholic). A great entry in the summer-is-a-bummer genre, a good bad trip that’s kind of snakey/slinky in approach as well and has some of the best/wildest guitar work of all the releases. Looks like there’s a little bit of bonus groove at the end if you want to try it and get your turntable to play it. 300 copies, punch-out hole 45rpm.
Third single from 2013 is the one I’d tell you start with. “Alcoholic” was recorded live to 8 track (at Estrogen Highs house again) and it’s a winner. It starts as a heavy-ish garage-psych tune that leads to some guitar-noise exploration that is pretty blown with plenty of feedback and a segment to end that is experimental in an SY style that really sounds like something dying (in a good way). B-Side is a rougher version of “Pacemaker” from the ‘Death Magic’ LP that sounds better here with some frayed edges, and nearly like an Estrogen Highs tune for a lazy (but honest) reference. Makes the tune sound like indie-ROCK here instead of INDIE-rock. Mellow and watery sounding, reverbed vox sound like they’re melting. 300 copies, big hole 45rpm.
These singles were what I was expecting, the sort of damaged home-recording style that I think we all enjoy, and I feel I got a better idea of Greene’s aesthetic from these truly lo-fi outings. Someone should e-mail me and tell me which of the other Mountain Movers full lengths sound like this, as I kinda think ‘Death Magic’ was a bit plain sounding. There’s real character to be found in these single sides though.(RK)
(Car Crash Avoiders // carcrashavoiders.tumblr.com)
Acid Mother’s Temple & The Melting Paraiso UFO “High on New Heaven, Live in New Haven” 3XLP
I regrettably didn’t pay much attention to the Japanese underground psych-freak-rock scene when it was in its prime in the early Nineties, instead concerning myself with the more direct (to me) garage-punk of Teengenerate/Registrators/Guitar Wolf at the time. A band like AMT was beyond my comprehension then in a way (or at least outside of my comfort zone), even though I was aware of them and their contemporaries and read all about it in the cool zines. Of course I worked backwards years later through the PSF catalog, damning myself for not buying High Rise and Keiji Haino records when they were still affordable. The one band I did at least get to experience firsthand after I caught on were Acid Mother’s Temple, who have continued on their speedfreak journey for almost twenty years now, guided by “speed guru” Kawabata Makoto. I got to see them live maybe 6-7 years ago and it was well worth the wait. In a weird way I relate the Japanese freak scene with New England, as it seemed like these bands and records were exclusively imported through Forced Exposure and the championing of Coley and Johnson and the alliance of bands like Ghost with the like-minded gonzos of Twisted Village. So it seems fitting for this live album to be coming from New Haven, the type of college-town community where these bands would play campuses or local bars and fry the minds of the more adventurous members of the student body on their tours – or at least that’s picture I have painted in my head. And get this – this show was played on 4/20 of 2013 – “Today is 420, so please, high on!” For most other bands, a triple LP set would be deemed overkill, but for an AMT show it’s almost not enough. Three LPs is about the minimum it would take, and I take a bit of pleasure in the rare instances where I get to play a Side F. Each side is a song, with C/D encompassing the vast “Pink Lady Lemonade” (“Including Om Riff From The Melting Paraiso UFO – Parts 1&2”). Most of “In Search of the Lost Divine Arc” is played (title track, “Born Free Stone Free” to open, closing with “Space Speed Suicide”) with the “Cometary Orbital Drive” suite taking up Side E. I’m no expert on the band or this scene, although I do my best to try, but I don’t think anyone would say this show wasn’t incredible. AMT are not a band you can be a completist with (unless this is your exclusive genre) and I only own 3 of what Discogs claims are 60+ full length releases. A little bit of AMT goes a long way though (not in a disparaging way either) and for a novice/casual fan like myself a live record of high quality (such as this one, derrrrr) is a good staple to have in your collection. If you’re unfamiliar, this is probably even a good place to start. This is truly psychedelic music in the real sense, not what “psych” as a genre or descriptor has been bastardized into today, and even better than the Acid Archives sense of what psych often means (limp fuzz guitar bar rock). As always, leave it to the Japanese to be the freakiest most-out-there and honestly wild and free purveyors of this music. Gargantuan guitar riffs, kaiju-like rhythm section and an array of synthesizers and electronics create music that is equally wild both in its moments of quiet outer-spaceness and full on headblow rocking. A band that I wish I had known about when I was a young kid taking a lot of acid instead of listening to ‘The Wall’ over and over. Bands like this are the true heirs to Hawkwind’s LSD-in-outer-space throne. And what’s even better is that they’re still doing it NOW. Scum stats: 500 total, with 100 being the now sold out special edition with silk screened foldover jackets and poster, and 400 regular edition of which there are precisely 47 left available as of the writing of this article thanks to the stats provided by the Safety Meeting bandcamp, available at the unbelievably nice price of $30 for 3 LPs and a wide spine sleeve to house them and a full size insert. DO IT. (RK)
(Safety Meeting // www.safetymeeting.net)
Estrogen Highs “Unfortunate Chronology” Vol. 1&2 cassettes
Estrogen Highs are one of those bands that I was privileged enough to see evolve via the Termbo reviews section, from the very first Stefan-only demo (self-depreciatingly titled “Rough, Shitty, Peaked Levels…” CD-R), the first self-released 7″ (“E Major D Construction”) their unfortunate alliance with the aptly named Deadbeat Records (“Tell it to Them” LP, the only rough patch I felt the band went through), a handful more of EPs and tapes on other labels and their own (‘Friends & Relatives’ LP and the ‘Cycles’ 12″ being where I felt they really hit their stride) and finally finding a fitting home with Trouble in Mind for a pair of outstanding LPs (‘Irrelevant Future’ and what might have been the apex of their catalog in 2015’s ‘Hear Me on the Number Station’). Tracing their path from what at first was a somewhat straight garage band formed from the ashes of Sudden Walks (whose self-titled 7″ is a shoo-in for whatever the ‘Destroy All Art’-esque comp of the mid-2000’s punk underground is going to be named) into the wonderfully diverse (Kiwi-pop-via-Columbus-punk?) group they became was one of the more organic and perhaps largely under-appreciated evolutions of the past decade. Sadly, after almost a decade of existence Stefan is now closing the door on the band. I’m saddened by this development of course, but at least they went out on top of their game – yet I feel there might have been even further possibilities (i.e. some more “mainstream” success?) had their upward trajectory continued. I suppose it’s best this way though. This two volume cassette set cleans out the closet of some live and unreleased tracks, alt takes, an awesome variety of covers and noise experiments from the last six years of the bands existence. The very final release is slated to be a split LP with Detroit’s Frustrations (another under-rated act) coming on New Haven’s Safety Meeting label later this year. Obviously both tapes are essential at this point if only to grasp on to these splintering moments while we can. Volume 1 highlights include a live “This Harsh Country” which saddens me even further realizing I never actually saw E-Highs live (I once helped set a Buffalo show up for them, then wasn’t even in town when it happened, and I heard they played to an unfortunately small crowd – sorry Stefan!), “Classic Texts” which I swear I’ve heard on another release (but can’t pin down?!), an alternate “Forever Designing My Stationary”, and the covers here are incredible. Possibly the only good Jim Shepard cover ever (Ego Summit’s “We Got It All”) and fittingly so as Shepard became a noticeable influence on Stefan’s songwriting, a romp through “Scavenger of Death” (not from the Permanent Feels either…) and a live and meandering (and frighteningly almost dead-on) “Can’t You See”. Vol. 2 has more primo live action, and the huge jam of “Alley Man” from ‘Friends & Relatives’ is a real mindblower, a quiet acoustic version of Leonard Cohen’s “Lover Lover Lover” is welcome (as is a nice little Townes Van Zandt cover) and a rousing “I Am Tradition”. 25 cuts over both volumes, you’d be wise to get them both now as they’re limited to 50 copies each. I’ll miss this band greatly (and their clockwork-like LP every year), as I found comfort in the fact of knowing they were always out there plugging away in the tradition of all other rock outfits doing it the right way – their own way. (RK)
(Elm Recordings // elmrecordings.com)
Pieces of Fruit “Sowere soso” demo
Five song demo recorded by Stefan from Estrogen Highs. Is this the “New Haven Sound”? Quiet jangle, indie-rock via NZ and VU, New England cassette underground vibes. Pieces work the repetition angle and put their best foot forward immediately with “Sound” which is succinct and pleasantly simple. They try on some Modern Lovers vibes at one point, and the songs where they break out the noise guitar (tastefully though) add some interesting textures. Musically I can get into this, but the guy’s (purposefully?) out-of-tune warbling really gets to me after two songs. (RK)
(Elm Recordings // elmrecordings.com)
Worn Leather “Demo” and “Tape II” cassettes
Promising pair of tapes (recorded again by Stefan) from this New Haven garage-punk trio. Demo tape is real good from the get-go. “Telling Lies” is a fantastic bit of punk rock hook casting, “Short Supply” sounds like a jangly Angry Samoans, and “Nervous Shakes” could be placed on a volume of Teenage Shutdown. B-Side has more ‘mats vibes, they try hard for the hooks and end up getting a bit too melodic for me at times, but I have to admit these kids are capable of writing some real good songs and could be punching above their weight class already. ‘Tape II’ has five more, mix is a bit more bottom heavy and gives the tunes a bit more edge here. “Words” is a near perfectly crafted bit of garage-spunk with a big hook and solo. “Common Sense” is a real gone garage-punk bomber with a piercing lead. I dig the sort of JD (juvie delinquent, not Joy Division, dummy) vibes these kids have (and what a great band name), and I suppose you could paint a picture of them as a ragged young version of Marked Men, but they keep it more garage-Punk, avoiding any too-cute pop cliches. They make a good effort at some vocal harmonies here that sound fitting and even a bit semi-tough and again elicit garage punk unknown thoughts. I’m imagining Stefan as mentoring these kids, and if that’s true they’re learning fast and well. Real cool stuff.(RK)
(self-released // wornleather.bandcamp.com)
Stefan Christensen “Israel (It’s More of the Same)” cassette
Stefan’s first solo outing (or official “solo” as there were some E-Highs recordings that were just him…or the Ehrgeizig and Permanent Feels tapes…) and what is apparently his new musical outlet now that E-Highs are gone (unless Casual Sexists are still together…). An eleven song journey, at times plaintive and somewhat folk-based but more often than not it’s wonderful rock with very classy use of loud guitars and somewhat experimental wrangling of feedback and noisy texture. Stefan’s contemplative songwriting style makes good use of dynamics in the structure, the sort of songs that you think are a bit quiet but realize halfway in that this is in essence loud rock’n’roll performed in very creative ways. “I Am the Timepiece” is a truly stunning piece of work and one of the best rock songs I’ve heard this year. The tape as a whole is full of canny moves, reinforcing the fact that Stefan is one of the more interesting voices out there. “Lost in East Rock” is reminiscent of Rick White’s work, there are segments that of course recall the direction that Estrogen Highs were heading in their waning days, perhaps even a bit more somber. I of course impress a certain New England feel onto this in my head, Sebadoh-like (maybe more Eric than Lou) maybe some Burma even. “Astral Fulfillment” actually reminds me of the sound and aesthetic of The Breeders circa-‘Pod’. I’m very thankful Stefan seems to be moving forward quickly with this project – I almost feel as if the Estrogen Highs were taken from us too soon, or perhaps I was just used to them being there, but this eases the pain. Word has it that Stefan has assembled a band with members of Mountain Movers and is playing live. And this very tape will be getting “reissued” via Night People as well. Artwork reminds me of a Homeblitz record, and while Stefan and Daniel might not sound that much alike, I think they both have a similar aesthetic in a way.(RK)
(self-released // www.irrelevantfuture.blogspot.com)
END NEW HAVEN////
Be back soon for Canadiana…..