4/22/2014

Cassette Corner: Quarterbacks - "Quarterboy"

Quarterbacks - Quarterboy
(2014 DBL DBL WHAMMY)

I've never been the type to swoon over all-acoustic solo recordings, but I do have a strong affection for demos, especially those of bands that I've closely followed. As a disciple of Quarterbacks' twangy, shambolic brand of twee-pop, the announcement that their upcoming tape release, Quarterboy, which heavily incorporates both of these elements, left me intrigued, but unable to predict as to whether it would blow me away, or leave me utterly unaffected. The one thing I could be sure of is that there wouldn't be a middle ground. Recently, the album was posted for early streaming on wonderingsound.com alongside an interview with the project's frontman Dean Engle. Normally, I'd just scroll straight to the album and save the interview for later, but something made me pause. I spotted a line of the review that mentioned that Engle was a major fan of both Tiger Trap and Henry's Dress, which stopped me dead in my internet-browsing tracks. A few months ago, I impulse-bought a split seven inch record that featured both of those bands, and it's proven to be one of my favorite records, a perfect fusion between punk aggression and saccharine c86 pop. This made me much more confident in this record. It was finally time for me to jump in and listen to it.

Most twee, though pleasant, can be rather emotionally one-dimensional: either happy or sad and usually excessively so. I felt a bit of that on Quarterbacks' 2012 tape, Loveseat. The tracks were lovely and concise, but lyrically, cute to the point where it felt forced. With this new release, it's not so straightforward. The songs aren't as much reflections on feelings but, rather, specific thoughts at a particular moment in time. The emotion is left to the listener's own reaction to these memories. As a teenager, Engle's newest songs particularly resonate with me, awkward memories of girls, each of them holding a piece of him, portals through which one can view snapshots of his life, some cozy, some not so much. For me, the most lyrically powerful of these tracks is "Center", which is about knocking on someone's door, waiting for them to open it, a practice that I still find mortifyingly uncomfortable. And on "Pool", "ONE TIME I SHOWED YOU A SONG / YOU ONLY THOUGHT THAT IT WAS KIND OF GOOD / I NEVER PLAYED IT AGAIN / IT WASN'T EVEN ABOUT YOU". Listening to lines like that gives me the feeling of brushing my teeth in the morning and remembering something stupid I said three years ago and thinking about that the whole car ride to school. Somehow, it really works for me in the context of this album. In short, the songs make me feel kinda sad, but oftentimes about things only covered peripherally in Engel's verse. Combined with crunchy, Sentridoh-esque acoustic chords and the occasional keyboard drum machine beat, Quarterboy is positively sublime.

"A UNIVERSE THAT FINALLY WORKS 
HOW YOU ALWAYS SUSPECTED 
WITH YOURSELF NEAR THE CENTER 
AS I GET OLDER 
I RECOGNIZE THAT LOVE 
IS MOSTLY SITUATIONAL"


4/17/2014

Cassette Corner: Stars Are Insane - "Pop Industry"

Stars Are Insane - "Pop Industry"
(Rok Lok 2014)

As the head of one of my favorite purveyors of noise pop, Rok Lok Records, New York's Mike Andriani is in the position to set an ever-evolving standard for the other bands released on his own label. Through his solo project, Stars Are Insane, he is able to manufacture a steady output of his own music, each release venturing into a unique blend of genres, but still strictly adhering to a single aesthetic: crunchy guitars, shimmering melodies and a warped, lo-fi texture. October's split with Monogamy displayed Andriani's ability as a composer of sorts, featuring two ambient pieces that put a sharp focus on layering. Crackling keyboard drones rippled against sharp guitar gales, extremely abrasive, yet still soft and transcendent like an overly hot shower. A 7-inch record shared with Morgue Toad found him strumming minimal bedroom folk, this time offering a bare sort of beauty, his vocals raw and exposed, veiled by paper thin acoustic chords. His first full album in some time, last month's Pop Industry, displays some of his least experimental, but admittedly his most satisfying, work to date, introducing the twangy college rock of R.E.M. to the ultra-DIY ethic of Shrimper Records circa '92. The two styles make for a match made in heaven, resulting in a 20-track effort that feels neither lengthy nor overly indulgent. It's just right. On the surface, Pop Industry feels like it could be audio ripped from a random cassette Andriani found lying on his floor. The track volumes are a bit inconsistent, adding a bit of awkward charm to the album, an element that many Rok Lok bands seem to revel in. But the deeper you get into the album, the more you appreciate the album's intensity. I see each song as a collage of separate instrumentation rather than a single entity, and I feel the more I scrutinize each song, the more and more it feels like it could fall to pieces. But things always find a way of staying together, and I always grow to become a sort of acquaintance with each song by the time it's over. Pop Industry is a very friendly album and I'll be willing to hang out with it anytime there's a tape deck nearby.

4/12/2014

Review: Butterglory - "Our Heads"

Butterglory - Our Heads
(Merge 1993)

While scanning the selection of used seven-inch records behind the wooden stage in the back of Black Plastic Records, I unearthed a nugget of DIY gold, namely, Butterglory's 1993 Our Heads EP. If it weren't for a book about Merge Records I had checked out from the library over the winter, I probably would have flipped past it immediately, but I remembered from my reading that this was one of Merge's earliest and most underrated releases. Before gaining mass notoriety from Arcade Fire's towering indie epics, Merge released overpoweringly charming lo-fi pop gems such as this one. The sleeve of Our Heads is made out of a textured material that feels like old, wrinkled money that you forgot you left in your pocket, or a floppy napkin housed in a tableside dispenser at Applebee's or some place like that. In fact, I'll go with the latter analogy because the back of the record is actually doodled on with crayons, just like those given out alongside kids' menus. The record has accumulated some surface noise over the years, but that sorta adds to its crackling lo-fi texture. The 5 songs sound like a twee Dinosaur Jr, if they got rid of their distortion, and it feels like it could fit into the soundtrack of Nickelodeon's Pete and Pete. Overtly simplistic guitar lines, mechanically stiff rhythms and monotone vocals all fit together to create an effort that's somehow both bleak and innocent. An absolutely brilliant slab of wax well worth the three dollar price tag.


4/09/2014

New Half-Gifts Tape Out Now!


BUY HERE

4/02/2014

Cassette Corner - Cyrus Is x Cal Thaddeus

Cal Thaddeus/Cyrus Is - Collaboration
(Snowfall Tapes 2014)

This might be the first time I've reviewed hip-hop on Half-Gifts, but this live collaboration between West Virginian beat creators Cyrus Is and Cal Thaddeus is too satisfying to pass up on. Most noticeably pretty about this tape is its design. The cover photo, for one, is a more barren take on the twinkly-emo art motif of the traditional neighborhood landscape. There's less of an inviting atmosphere here than on the cover of, say, American Football's self-titled album. Sure, both were taken in the winter (as the dead trees suggest), and even include similar looking houses, but something about the warm glow of the window against the pea green sky on the American Football cover suggests a friendly sense of intimacy longed for by the onlooker. Is it seen through the eyes of a passing pedestrian who can't help but try to peer through windows? Or maybe the creepy kid who has a crush on the girl who lives there? Perhaps it's even the lone walker on the Cal Thaddeus/Cyrus Is cover, which I feel conveys a strong feeling of isolation. Though he's strolling through a decently populated neighborhood, he's all alone with the gloomy chill of the winter air, surrounded by a vast expanse of front lawns and sickly foliage. Maybe I just dig it because the surroundings look a lot like where I live, and I often take walks. Maybe I look too far into album covers. I can't be too sure, but once again this tape's cover photo really condenses the vibe of its contents into a single moment suspended in time. 

I see this tape as background music composed in that pedestrian's head as he makes his way around the block. The tracks are not exactly full songs, rather short song fragments composed of repetitive samples. Side A has a really sparse, icy vibe, with a focus on melancholy saxophone, hushed vocal samples and slow, pulsating drum machine loops. It kinda reminds me of the Hey Arnold soundtrack a bit, which makes sense for such a low-key cartoon. Side B revolves more around jazzy piano and keyboard, but it still maintains its lonely atmosphere. Track 6 on this side actually includes rap, but I can't tell if it's sampled or performed live. Anyhow, it's still my favorite cut from the side. Great tape, bump it in your walkman and take a trip around the block if you can.



3/27/2014

Review: Cool Dog - "demo"

Cool Dog - Demo
(Self-Released 2014)

For a lo-fi enthusiast like myself, when it comes to a hardcore demo, the more garbled, fast-paced and unintelligible it is the better. No band I've reviewed on this blog has fit that bill more adeptly than Minneapolis powerviolence duo Cool Dog. Everything about their debut has this improvised, cobbled-together vibe that I can't get enough of. For one, the band's name, Cool Dog, has this minimalist, nearly-nonsensical ring to it, reminding me of brutalist architecture. If the name Cool Dog were a building, it would be a square heap of grey concrete with vaguely rectangular holes cut in it for windows and doors. It may not be polished, but you have to appreciate its creator's boldness. The same goes for the cover art too, refusing to state the band name or an album title. The cartoonish roadkill, stamped onto a blank piece of paper, fulfills its purpose: to provide a picture to look for when scrolling through albums on your iPhone, but scrapes off any excess pretension.

Equally minimal and brutalistic is the demo itself. There are only two instruments in the band, drums and a baritone guitar, which allows for a deeper, grittier distortion than a normal guitar would allow. There isn't even any bass guitar. Cool Dog subsists on the bare essentials. Recorded to tape, I assume, the two instruments together form a full-on noise wall. Blasts of feedback and gnarled power chords become a near-drone, only to be pushed along by the drums, which can become a bit buried beneath the static. The vocals are unintelligible yelps that crest above the noise. In short, Cool Dog's demo is an intense effort that, if nothing else, makes me want to hear these guys live, or at least a studio recording. 



3/22/2014

Cassette Corner: Kevin Hein - "Gauze II"

Kevin Hein - Gauze II
(Baro 2014)

Tucked between the J-card and clear plastic case of my copy of Kevin Hein's Gauze II was a small slip of paper, about the width of two fingers, professing his massive love for 80's dream-pop purveyors the Cocteau Twins. Having named Half-Gifts after one of their songs, I was excited to add this tape to my school morning rotation. The Twins' influence was evident even in giving the cassette's packaging a quick once-over. The cover art's abstract wisps resembled those adorning the sleeves of Heaven or Las Vegas and Victorialand, and barely pronounceable song titles like "Maelstrom Pale Malachite" were definitely Twins-ian. As one might expect, so was the music; though there was no vocalist to match Elizabeth Fraser's signature glossolalia, the lengthy guitarscapes were very remniscent of Robin Guthrie's, laced with citrus-y chorus and a soggy dose of reverb, the airy drones floated like a raft in choppy water, unaltered, but tossed around by undulating waves. Below this, on a couple of tracks, drum machine loops dove deep into the abyss of sludgy residual sound. Hazy and beautifully monolithic, these drones have a hypnotizing quality. As I've said of many ambient albums I enjoy, Gauze II makes good background music to stare out of car windows in the dark to. And at nearly twenty minutes of material, it's the perfect length to last me from the driveway to the school parking lot.


3/16/2014

Single Review: Cumbres Carrascosa - "Nevertheless Introductory"

Cumbres Carrascosa - Nevertheless Introductory
(Beko Disques 2014)

Nevertheless Introductory is the debut digital single by Cumbres Carrascosa, solo project of Canary Islands-based songwriter Miguel Camara, and was recently released via Beko Disques, a French label that celebrates shoegaze. Despite the highly international nature of this single, it's able to hit surprisingly close to home for me with the inclusion of a cover of Sub Society's "A Lot Less". It's likely you haven't heard of this track, which is because it's a cut that will only be recognized by those who have religiously reviewed "Hokus Pokus", the skate video released in 1989 by board company H-Street. Though the tape isn't by any means a household name, it to this day maintains a cult following, and those who hear the song will instantly be reminded of Matt Hensley's part in the video. Like many bands featured on "Hokus Pokus", Sub Society embodies the ethic of the late 80s SoCal DIY scene: fuzzed-out punk that resembles a twangier Descendents. "A Lot Less" is carried by its murky bass-line and a repetitive three chord progression. It's a bit sloppy, but tough to get out of your head. The Cumbres Carrascosa version of the track is a major departure from the original; it's driven by airy synths and a plodding drum machine, yet it holds firm to Sub Society's minimalist approach to pop. The a-side, "Warm", borrows its sound from both post-punk and new-wave, dark monotone vocals against swirling synths and warbling guitar riffs. It could be mistaken for an early 4AD or Factory records 7". Even if you're not a fan of late-80's skate culture, I think you'll still dig this single, given you're a fan of the KVB, Zola Jesus or Lust For Youth.

3/15/2014

Single Reviews: Prima - "Devil" and "Open Up"

Prima - Devil
(2014 Birthday Tape)

In the DIY community, sometimes the magic of the singles leading up to an album can be lost or overlooked. What I've always enjoyed about following medium-sized labels like Slumberland and Captured Tracks is the buildup to a highly anticipated release, each new single and news item like a trip to your grandparents' house just before Christmas, a handful of fun presents to tide you over for the major haul you've been patiently waiting for. Who could forget those months before DIIV's debut record? There was a name change, a display of the many styles on the record, (there's a world of difference between "Doused" and "Sometimes"), even a single that was not used later. That energy of anticipation is evident on the Bandcamp page of New Orleans-based synth-pop project Prima. Over the past 3 months, the project has unveiled two singles, each a small work of art on its own. The first of these is Devil, a lo-fi look at goth-pop through a VHS lens.

The album artwork for both singles is lovely, and they each do a good job of capturing the essence of their respective releases. Devil's is unsettling; the blurry juxtaposition of an angel statue against an overcast sky forms a haunting vibe, made even more powerful by the soft, italicized band name and the Cocteau Twins-esque border. The three tracks on the single are all-too fitting. The intro to the title tune is a grimy, chugging rhythm, engulfed by synths that to me, would make a good soundtrack for a lazer tag arena. After "Melon", a brief industrial interlude, you'll hear the b-side, "Nearer My God To Thee". It sort of reminds me of the untitled single that came with copies of MBV's "Isn't Anything", flimsy ambient trellises surrounded by a cacophony of noisy samples and fractured beats.




Prima - Open Up
(2014 Birthday Tape)

The 2nd single from the upcoming album, which was just recently revealed to be titled "Staircase Anthem", is, as its artwork might suggest, more lighthearted than its predecessor, but still undeniably creepy. "Open Up", the title track, is a lot more melodic than what you've heard previously, carried by a shuffling drum machine that reminds me of Heavenly Beat. The vocals are reminiscent of 80s new wave pop groups like A-Ha and Tears For Fears, and the track concludes with a surprising dubstep breakdown. "Today (I'm Okay)", continues with the same mood and atmosphere, but with much darker lyrical content. It's actually the most beautiful and catchy track I've heard from Prima thus far, though its length makes it a bit inaccessible. Overall, Open Up is a very lovely single that acts as a contrast to the gothic vibe heard on Devil

3/09/2014

Review: acab rocky - "sara"

acab rocky - sara
(2014 self-released)

Being the Dinosaur Jr. fan that I am, I can't help but wonder what might have become of the band had Lou Barlow not parted ways with J Mascis after recording Bug. Barlow's quiet, intense proto-emo found on Sebadoh's Bakesale, as well as the ultra lo-fi ethic he applied to his acoustic project Sentridoh, would have made a good pairing with Mascis' explosive sludge-pop, especially as each began to mature as songwriters. Though sara, the new CD release by Canadian duo acab rocky, has a vibe that fits in well with the new wave of lo-fi acts, there's something about the EP that reminds me of both Lou and J.

This resemblance first appears in "Interlude", an instrumental track that hearkens back to Dino's early cuts, ramshackle, yet sinister songs like "Gargoyle" and "The Lung". The rhythm guitar ripples, cold, with this really chilling vibe that leaves the listener with some degree of uneasiness. The weighty bass glides through the track like one of those vertically hanging roller coasters, making tight turns that push your head back into your seat. "Delusions" also has a very similar vibe, with an icy lead guitar riff straight out of a cheesy horror movie. The vocals are very prominent in the mix, a bit monotone against the droning chords. They're almost uncomfortably raw, as if being spoken to loud and too close to the listener. It's not a bad thing, though. It only adds to the creeping intensity of the album as a whole.

There are also moments unique to the band, though. "Mother" has a very placid shoegaze vibe, quiet pluckings and bobbing synth tones brewing in a vat of reverb. The vocals are very nice, a bit gritty but well produced. A couple of ambient tracks attach songs together, intermission has a distant, wailing guitar tone, pulled along by cello hums. For a 9 track release, acab rocky fits in a whole lot of ideas while still maintaining a sort of neo-gothic aesthetic. 

3/02/2014

Interview: Pill Friends


Having upgraded from trio to quintet with the addition of Abi Reimold (guitar/vocals) and Erin Patricia (synths/vocals), Philadelphia's Pill Friends look to improve upon their stellar sophomore Birdtapes offering, Blessed Suffering. Check out my interview with frontman Ryan Wilson as well as a brand-new track below!

Jude: I really dug that Modest Mouse cover you did for the Maggot House session. I take it you're a fan? Is Lonesome Crowded West your favorite LP of theirs?

ryan: everything isaac brock released up until 2005 is incredible and each of those releases holds different prominent forms for certain periods, ive worshiped them all throughout middle and high school. ive been listening to building something out of nothing lately and i love every song except for medication thats the only song previous to good news that sucks lk the ending is good but the first part is annoying as shit i hate it.

One song on the album you put out over the summer, Blessed Suffering, that really stood out to me was "Mall Goth". It's easy to overlook, but I think it's really powerful and minimal and also includes some of my favorite lyrics of the release. How do you feel about the track? What's the story behind the lyrics?

mall goth is one of my favorites it's pretty much about learning to kill an old self for another destructive self and the longing for death. Its mainly a song about wanting to kill yrself but having other personal obligations. Mall goth refers to the oxford valley mall which is a museum of the early 2000s, it's all just nothing really

Is there a particular song that you've done that stands out as your personal favorite?

wearing my dead dog's skin and murder me for my sins.

A ton of great Philadelphia bands have cropped up lately, Mumblr, Roof Doctor, you guys. What's going on up there?

nothing except for mumblr, Alex g, and cough cool.

What's the best band you've seen that hasn't released any recorded music yet?

cold foamers and eleby. both are from philly and have eps or demos out now, but both bands are killing it so far from what ive seen of them. Cold foamers just released their first full length and it's the shit

For your next full album, are you going to go as lo-fi as you went on Blessed Suffering? 

the next album is going to be recorded and produced by scott stitzer (mumblr) who recorded blessed suffering and i cant say how the production quality will be determined because i honestly dont know. i mean i think it will be generally lofi but scott as a producer and pill friends have developed together from the beginning. he recorded our first demos when he had really just started to record other bands and in this last year scott has developed into a great producer and he continually just keeps getting better. we recorded some tracks at a studio here in philly on and off the past few months and everything fell into perspective for me, i dont want anyone else to record the next pill friends lp except scott.

Favorite Birdtapes release?

there isnt one bad birdtapes release in my bullshit opinion but all the splits that just came out (starry cat/boy crush, porches./lvl up, and alex g/rl kelly) are all incredible. my favorite song off any of them would be townie blunt guts by porches. at the moment though. Also new olive drab is about tocome out and Reid is pretty and it sounds great.

Worst album you own?

hymns w/ johnny desmond, i found a bunch of dumb records and this one was the worst, i love traditional hymns but i dont why this record just sucked like i hate his voice and makes me not like the songs which is bullshit

What's a suburban white trash christ?

suburban white trash christ is the emptiness of societal structure that one experiences growing up in a Christian dominated youth and finding no substance within it all

3/01/2014

Review: Joplin Rice - "Spine Adagio II & The Prince"

Joplin Rice - Spine Adagio II / The Prince
(2014 Self-Released)

When it comes to reviewing folk-influenced music, I'll admit that my tastes can lean toward the lo-fidelity emo end of the spectrum. I find that many of the sleeker, more well-produced releases of the genre can resort to handclaps and predictable chord progressions to reel listeners in. Even an act with some underground cred can stoop to the level of The Lumineers when it comes to their songwriting. Joplin Rice's latest release, a double album titled Spine Adagio II / The Prince, circumvents these problems, delivering polished yet fuzzy pop that reaches toward the high standard set by Merge Records icons like Neutral Milk Hotel, Lambchop, even the lovable melodrama of Arcade Fire. Blend all those bands together with a generous helping of melancholia, and you have the essence of the songs crafted by this Lexington, Kentucky based singer-songwriter.

The Spine Adagio half of the release is the more approachable of the two, featuring more varied instrumentation and noticeably shorter song lengths. It seeks to immediately plunge itself into its observer: marching-band drums rumble in the distance while molten chords seep like lava through the speakers, a striking introduction to "Spitting Fire", the album's opening track. The pairing of a crunchy drone with driving percussion reminds me of a similarly effective opener, "Recharge and Revolt" by the Raveonettes. A trebly acoustic guitar peeks out from the crest of these waves of static, providing a greater sense of melody to the piece. Rice's raspy vocals spill into the bubbling sound soup, bleeding through the mic. If you've listened to Grow Horns, who I've previously reviewed, his voice might sound pretty familiar to Miles Urosevich's.

An overwhelming sense of sadness flows through Spine Adagio's veins. The guitars are accented with a shimmery finish, but are turned dark by bassy piano notes and booming drums. The lyrics reveal a fascination with bones, muscles nerves and what holds together and moves these parts, not unlike those on NMH's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. I find that it's not songs that I seek out while listening to the album, but moments. The keening keyboard in the middle of "The Pipes pt. 2", the constantly building tension in "Afterkiss" and the haunting, reverby vocals of "Cathedral".

The Prince delves into more experimentation than we saw on Spine Adagio, its respective opening track, "Ruins" lasting nearly eight minutes. It commences with sparse guitar noodling, phasing in and out of dissonance. It slowly pieces itself together, enough so that at around the two minute mark it can support lyrics. The sadness from the previous album is still present, perhaps even more so, in Rice's delivery. At the four minute mark, another change, as Spanish guitar chords rush into the mix, followed by heavy percussion. The Prince is less fuzz-drenched, but more nuanced than its predecessor, and I think it greatly benefits from that. Recommended tracks are "Reliquary", which shares a sort of Southern European vibe with The Decembrists, and "November 17th", which features a gorgeous farewell guitar solo. There's a lot to take in on this double album, but it's best to just jump in and embrace its immensity. Though it's a bit self indulgent, little time is wasted on Spine Adagio II / The Prince, making for a very commendable release. 

2/23/2014

Cassette Corner: Euphoria Again - "Bedroom Recordings Remastered"

 
Euphoria Again - Bedroom Recordings Remastered
(Z Tapes 2013)

Though they only have a couple cassettes (plus a digital compilation) to their name, Slovakian label Z Tapes has quickly become one of my favorite purveyors of fuzzy sad-pop. Late last year, the label caught my attention with the release of Jackie Trash's wow so sad, a jangly look at the lo-fi ethic of early Modest Mouse and Built to Spill. Last Saturday, I received the second addition to my Z Tapes collection, a collection of home demos recorded by Euphoria Again, the solo project of Salt Lake City's Johnny Forrest. Though not as fast-paced and poppy as Jackie Trash's offering, Euphoria Again more than makes up for its minimalist aesthetic with patient songwriting, impressive maturity and a ghostly aura that pairs well with its cover. Without resorting to gimmick or flashiness, Euphoria Again has received a permanent seat in my family's car's cupholder, which holds albums reserved for listening on the way to school.

At 17 tracks, Bedroom Recordings might seem like a daunting listen, but it really isn't so. Many of the tracks are rather rough sketches, usually containing just a single verse and a chorus, and the whole tape clocks in at a reasonable 40 minutes. I'll admit that a good majority of these whispery lo-fi acts have very beautiful, almost brittle sounds, but it's rare that one of them has had me humming their songs in the hallway at school, and so often. Tracks like "X Marks The Time", "Ol Rudy" and "Janis Klonopin" will stick with you even after the cassette is ejected and tucked into its case. They're just that forcefully catchy, creating powerfully memorable melodies from rudimentary materials.

If there's one band Euphoria Again reminds me of, it's Uncle Tupelo. The gritty sound quality and trudging chords landing on heavy bass note footfalls remind me very much of the slacker-folk duo's more melancholic cuts like "Fatal Wound". This is especially evident on "Uncle Sam's Adopted Sons", a sludgy track that rolls along on droning chords and a shimmering tambourine. If you must listen to one of these bedroom recordings, though, it has to be "X Marks the Time". It's intro features absolutely gorgeous vocals, wordless coos heavily affected by a tremolo pedal. The vocals have a sort of jump-rope rhyme repetition: "Black as my brain / cold as your heart / white as my skin / tough as your hands".

2/19/2014

Cassette Corner: Jump The Blinds - "Kill Kill Bangkok"

Jump The Blinds - Kill Kill Bangkok
(2014 Self-Released)

As my last few posts have mentioned I enjoy a tape surrounded with a hint of mystique, and it's only natural that Jump The Blinds' new album Kill Kill Bangkok piqued my curiosity. It arrived in a normal looking letter-sized envelope, a lone purple tape absent from its box, wrapped in torn notebook paper. The album title was scrawled directly onto the cassette's face with a black sharpie, bordered by heavy, jagged marks that I might find myself absent-mindedly doodling in a notebook. Honestly, I didn't know all that much about the New York quartet before popping the tape into our van's deck, but the DIY feel of the tape had me excited to give it a listen.

I've listened to the eight song EP a few times now, and it's still extremely difficult for me to pin it down to a single subgenre. At times, it perfectly resembles the crusty, rhythm-driven skate punk sound of the early 80's. A dark, yet also undeniably catchy approach to hardcore is taken throughout the album, reminding one of the surprisingly tuneful aggression of the Misfits or Drunk Injuns. Other elements of Kill Kill Bangkok, however, point to the neo-garage rock recently popularized by Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees. It's especially evident in the sour, moaning guitaristry on "Dance" and the acid twang of the vocals. There are even a few moments showing some post-punk restraint. "Clockwise" opens with muted guitar and a heavy, galloping beat, possibly signifying a Fugazi influence. In fact, I'd imagine it could pass for an emo track in the right setting.

In the end, I can't help but love this tape, not only for it's unabashed DIY spirit in design and sound quality, (the songs were recorded in an old barn with vintage equipment), but also for its raw brand of punk, transcending any specific label. This can, at times, make for a few jarring shifts in mood or timbre, but overall, this variety keeps the listener more actively aware of what he's consuming, inviting comparisons to other punk acts.

Contact the band at whirpool138@gmail.com or at 2214 24th Street, Niagra Falls, New York 14305 if you're interested in getting your hands on a copy.

2/14/2014

Interview: :3


Sounding a bit similar to the Slinkeys, (featured in yesterday's review), San Antonio's :3 create fuzzed-out bedroom pop that's simple and delicate, yet conceals a sinister aura, not unlike the photo the e-mailed me, shown above. Read on to find out why frontman Joshua Belmares chose the band's seemingly unpronounceable name, what food he enjoys, and when :3 might make their live debut.

1.) Why did you decide your name after an emoticon? How would one pronounce it in conversation?

I’ve been writing songs since I was thirteen but always knew they weren’t actually songs so much as weird song embryos that awkwardly exist in a sort of bardo state, between abstract noise and conventional sound. it wouldn’t necessarily even be right to call it music, noise or otherwise, and it’s certainly shouldn’t be thought of as avant-garde, but that still left the action of writing and recording, which I was doing, and some of the compositions I created could have sounded like songs to a deaf person. :3 is an attempt to sort of pretend my songs exist in the real world along songs by other people who also exist. we called it such because no other words really captured what we were trying to do, and it always reminds me of sending text messages in high school on cheap plastic phones, so there’s a nostalgic element to it. I’ve always pronounced it silly cat face, but :3 is pretty anti-language, so you should ask them instead.

2.) How did :3 originate? Who's in the band and what are they like?

:3 is me but a lot of other people also. we all have a lot of fear, anxieties and nervousness and that’s kind of what created :3 in the first place. it’s all teenaged satanic music and we all exist inside of it, so listening to the recordings should tell you exactly who and what we are. and if you want to meet us in person (whatever that means), we live in san antonio, in texas, in the united states. our address is 1110 vista valet, apartment #704. I think our zip code is 78216. we have two cats.



3.) Your latest release, "Mindless Eating", has a chaotic and extemporaneous atmosphere. How are the tracks recorded and written?

mindless eating was kind of strange for us. it was recorded after a lot of emotional turmoil the previous and summer and was sort of an attempt to come to terms with that stress - it’s very much a summer record. I wanted listening to the album to be kind of uncomfortable, like when you’re home fevered in bed on the hottest day of the year, sticky cough syrup dribbling out the corners of your mouth. we had sent a digital version of the adventures of me and my ghost twin to almost halloween time and they wrote back asking if we had any other songs they could listen to, so we kind of rushed through the recording process, but it worked out since this was our punk record and it was supposed to be a blurry memory of an angry season. we recorded everything between our car and our apartment (we have very thin walls), mostly at night, and our lyrics were written mostly in the middle of the day. I ended up failing the semester at school because the record took up most of my energy.

4.) What bands would you consider influences on your sound? I definitely hear at least a little Sentridoh in there.

any similarities with sentridoh aren’t necessarily deliberate, other than the home recording aesthetic that a lot of shrimper bands had out of necessity. I never really listened to any of lou barlow’s music until I was already out of high school. actually a much bigger influence would be daniel johnston, who collaborated with jad fair of half japanese on it’s spooky, an album I’ve always been mildly fascinated by. we got to see daniel when he performed at an art show during south by southwest last year, after all the people from california descended on austin like a swarm of angry bees. it’s a really horrible experience being in the city that week (imagine a stream of terrible automobiles flushing inside and out like a douche), but seeing him in a tiny gallery was a dream come true for us. spook houses are another one of the artists who we admire best - they create these amazing jangly dream punk compositions and make it seem effortless. every time we listen to one of their records it makes us want to go out and create our own. they’re a lot like wisdom tooth in that respect, whose beautiful pop record baby neptune we could listen to over and over again. it kind of sounds like watching cartoons stoned and then vomiting from eating too much cereal. two other bands who influenced us in a giant way are woods (especially woods family creeps) and the unicorns, who we’ve been listening to since middle school. they both planted these achingly psychedelic compositions in the recesses of our brains, so whenever we’re playing one of our tunes we’re playing one of their songs too.

5.) How did you get the chance to get a release on Almost Halloween Time? I love the artwork for that label.

we initially emailed our demo to labels, blogs and artists we like very much but didn’t really receive any kind of feedback except for some extremely polite and slightly ambiguous no’s. I think cassie ramone has a cd we burned and decorated with paint markers, and we’re sending a few unreleased songs and photographs to the experimental musician christina carter later this month through the postal service. the most positive reaction we got came from luigi falagario, who owns and operates almost halloween time by himself and hand paints each of those releases. I’m not sure any of them have sold yet but we’re really grateful he liked our sound enough to dub the cassettes, even though the people releasing the new recordings would be completely different than the ones behind the adventures of me and my ghost twin. mindless eating became much more of a traditional exorcism compared to me and my ghost twin’s high school record.



6.) Are any of you guys (or have you been) in any other bands?

some of us have performed with others in things which could have become non-fictional bands but didn’t, but we’re all still pretty wet behind the ears. one of us produces electronic music under the name franklin eighties. mostly it’s just :3 though.

7.) What's your favorite food to eat mindlessly?

I really love bread, candy, cakes, sweets, sugary things and anything that’s there and cheap and plentiful. that’s a really big issue with me, consuming out of boredom anything devoid of nutrition so that I kill my appetite for any kind of actual food. all of mindless eating is kind of about that, devoting your time to any repetitive action which doesn’t deserve it, whether it be masturbation or smoking or watching television. that’s why the thing on the cover has a screen for a head - he’s the personification of death from sterility, so it’s good that he’s vomiting. all of that fecal matter becomes ghosts inside your body unless you release it somehow. 

8.) 2nd favorite emoticon next to :3?

:(

9.) What's in store for the future of :3?

we’re going to play a show this year, probably around halloween-time. we’ve been practicing a lot. I’ve never performed in front of any kind of audience so it makes me kind of nervous. we have no idea what venue we might perform at in the city or who we might open for or play with or how long it should be or which songs should be played. right now I’m working on some outtakes from the mindless eating sessions and recycling some lyrics that were meant to be recorded already, and some covers of spooky songs we like very much. we still have a few mindless eating experiments to do before the next collection of songs, before the album can be buried; we should sell a few tapes too so someone will want to put out our next release