Practical problems demand practical solutions. Lacking the gas or funds to travel to an ideal vacation spot as summer humidity gets serious? Air conditioning failing or outright dead? Insects crawling and stinging incessantly? Power through all that shit with this month’s column. Yeah, yeah, I know: This is an unworkable, thoroughly unrealistic perspective. But it’s not as if anything about this exhausting, all-around-bullshit year has been realistic, right?
Dysphoric Existence, Not Like the Other Girls
The debut from Spokane, Washington’s Dysphoric Existence hits like a destructive beam from the other side of the galaxy. I’ve made this point in this space before, but it bears repeating: Harsh wall-noise artifacts are interchangeable and boring unless artists find ways to upend or subvert the genre. Not Like the Other Girls gets it. Side A, “Give Thyself Unto Satan,” swiftly locates and sustains a rhythm within its churning maelstrom: It’s like a lung inflating, deflating, and then inflating again, so that even as the distortion level skyrockets, we never lose sight of the central design. Consuming side B is the title track, which subverts side A’s strictures and revels in the harrowing, bulldozed results; those of you for whom doom metal generally and Skullflower in particular are touchstones should devote some time and attention here. Girls eventually and without ceremony concludes — at which point it’s natural to immediately re-listen to the whole thing.
Pleasure Island, The Nexus
Sick, subtle The Nexus arrives courtesy of Portland, Oregon’s Pleasure Island. The default setting here is a hyperventilated, fanfare-free gear-grind, less cataclysmic end-is-nigh onslaught than a sleepwalking annihilation that seems almost laughably distant. Side A, “Feminine Holy Spirit,” opens upon a null void. A remote throb claws, with field-recorded brio, at a vast, empty space — until a needling parallel drone fades into view. Once a rough, seesawing near-melody and demonic dialogue rise to overwhelm everything that came before, it’s over. Side B, meanwhile, smolders. “Shepherd’s Rod” plays like a slow blister, crumbly bass waveforms beset on all sides by acidic effects and lonesome bells.
Crown Larks, Blood Dancer
Regular readers are aware that this column is not always time-frame-specific. This month, we’re going backpedal a year and change to Blood Dancer, the debut LP from Chicago’s Crown Larks. “Art rock” is the shorthand here, but this band juggles drone noise, jazz improvisation, shoegaze, and postpunk with deftness; the seams don’t show. The impressionist “Fog, Doves” gathers itself up very gradually, building dreamscapes out of instrumental driftwood and wistful vocal turns. “Defector” lures us with florid, crisp krautrock before tumbling into a no-wave chasm; “Gambian Blue Wave” is a concise piece of modern composition pop. Anyone fortunate enough to have seen Sonic Youth live in non-festival settings should understand what “a local Sonic Youth opening act” is: a band that doesn’t sound like Sonic Youth exactly, but eschews musical specificity, lyrical sloganeering, and showboating, for amorphous improv adventure; you rarely remember the set, but you recall how it made you feel, and the disc you buy at the merch table is a minor triumph that few will get to savor. Crown Larks might be the ultimate “local Sonic Youth opening act.” They’re on a brief tour; check their Bandcamp to see if they’ll appear at a venue near you.
Pain Appendix, “Tenderizer”
“Tenderizer,” from South Florida’s Pain Appendix, rewards close listening on headphones. While a mass of disembodied, looped vocals hover in the center, differentiated, effects-fueled squelches assail each channel; they’re the main attraction, and they’re fantastic. Meaty, quizzical stutters, high-pitched whines, and gummed, grinding gears intersect in orchestrated glory, worrying at a scrap of sub-industrial melody like wolves feuding over unclaimed territory.
Scythes, “Kill Your Television”
There’s no noise like live noise. “Kill Your Television,” finds Dead C’s Bruce Russell and Into the Void’s Jason Greig colliding streams of deconstructed guitar with all due majesty. (The performance was part of a set the duo played late last month in their native New Zealand.) This isn’t a duel, just two guitarists wandering lonely, blasted paths that happen to converge. These riffs are coiling, serpentine, and endless, starkly clarified at times and retreating into eclipsing, solipsistic dins at others.
2015’s best compilation, ladyz in noyz 3.5, is finally available as a Bandcamp download; you now have no excuse for abstaining from this international awesomeness.
Louisville, Kentucky’s Tropical Trash celebrate the one-year anniversary of their excellent record UFO Rot with the absorbing “Big Game John Cage.”
Those jonesing for something a bit more kaleidoscopic might dig “Endless Coil,” from Ohio’s Machine Listener.
New Yorkers and people who will be in NYC this weekend, here’s one last reminder that Summer Scum 5 — the final Summer Scum — is about to go down at Trans-Pecos. Performers include Burning Star Core, Puce Mary, Humanbeast, Narwhalz of Sound, the aforementioned Pleasure Island, and many, many more.