All 9 volumes of the Contact Compilation are out now, including the long-delayed all-collaborations volume 5. Head over to Hal McGee’s bandcamp page to check them out.

thunder bunny cover

Lovers of the old-school shoegaze wall-of-sound, psychedelic vibes and sunny major-key melodies bathed in fuzzed-out guitars and reverb, rejoice: we have Thunder Bunny. The band consisting mainly of New Jersey’s Christopher Padula released this EP earlier this year through Ames’s Workerbee Records.

Opener “paint a golden stick” sports an especially charming lead guitar line right out of the gate. Four tracks, three of them easy-tempo noise-pop gems driven by woozy drums, a thick mystery-inducing haze of fuzz guitar and shamanic tambourines in the reverby temple of the cult of sound. Of course the third track will be the instrumental. “headless” slightly resembles an excerpt from one of those improvisation tracks Amon Düül II put on Yeti or Tanz der Lemminge after getting rolling with a classic octavey bass ride of the kind favored by Wooden Shjips.

“(when you’re here)” ends the disc on a high note, reminiscent of middle-era Flaming Lips or classic Mercury Rev, in both the vocal melody and the floaty acoustic bit that reminds me of the verses of “Snorry Mouth,” introducing the song and recurring between the lush, sexy verses. And speaking of sexy, check out the video:

Sorry if it seems like I haven’t posted here much. If you want more, I share a lot of stuff on the Centipede Farm Facebook page. I’ve got a bunch of stuff that’s come my way this year that I’d like to write about before the year’s out, but then I was in the same position last year and didn’t manage to touch on near all of it. We’ll just let it come out as it can.

Peopling is R.Gonzales, who introduced himself to me over e-mail as a “noise-rock musician.” But don’t think noise-rock as in any of the followers of Sonic Youth or AmRep. This is closer to the stuff I’ve been digging into of late that’s filed under simply noise, but Peopling hammers that noise into rough rock shapes. This 6 track EP starts out upbeat with “Come Home Eccentric”, which opens with a loop of distorted outer-space radio-static noise that’s joined by a two-note synth bass line, loose punky drumming, and a heavily distorted taunting vocal. While it’s the most “rock” track of the bunch, the remainder of the disc follows much of the tone it sets. Hypersonic feedback, malformed power electronics, and heavily overloaded 4-track circuits swarm around sparse drums and electronic rhythms, loops of distorted metal-machine noise, some minimal distorted guitar, and even more heavily distorted vocals. Have I mentioned a lot of it is really distorted? It can be a disorienting assault, but also strangely mellow, almost folky in an optical illusion kind of way. A welcome respite from the noise comes with the acoustic guitar intro of “Summer Such And Such” before distorted elements begin creeping back in; there are also some melodies, of a sort, popping out at points.

Overall, Peopling comes off a little bit like a much harsher, yet somehow mellower, version of No Age — similarly oriented around stripped-down rock frameworks, but rhythmically laid-back, yet with many of the levels cranked to beyond the red. It’s a worthwhile concept taking the sonics of pure electro-noise and giving them a bare-bones level of rhythm and structure, a field ripe for further exploration and a possible remedy to the sometimes problematic tendency of noise music towards faceless interchangeability. Get it in digital form from Bandcamp or contact thepeopling at gmail to inquire about a CD copy.

Neon Lushell by way of (o)+HERS? Yes please, I’ll take it. A meeting of two formidable forces in sonic squalor: (o)+thers take tracks from Neon Lushell’s upcoming Modern Purveyors Of Filth And Degradation CD and give them the kind of noised-out, screwed-up, slowed-down treatment they’re known for applying to truckloads of well-known rock and pop tunes or anything else they can get their hands on. The result is a denser and more beat-oriented stew than the relatively minimalist originals, yet every bit as freaky and filthy. Stream below, buy a disc or download for free here.

cop bar cover

It’s a dangerous proposition for someone who’s made their name outside heavy music circles to come out and say “I’m going to do a metal thing now,” especially with the sudden rise in hipster attention on metal of late and the backlash that engenders. But Iowa City’s renowned spazzy singer-songwriter Samuel Locke-Ward is the type of artist who would do something like Cop Bar not out of naivete or dilletantism but out of a mix of restless creative energy and fearlessness. Besides, metal kinda suits Sam in a way: his songs have always walked in dark places even when they’ve been presented in gentle folky arrangements. Furthermore, in his more intense moments as a performer, his voice has been known to lapse into a kind of strangled growl that in retrospect does have a bit of grindcore in it. He’s a longtime fan of the heavy stuff, besides.

Cop Bar is not quite the typical grindcore or hardcore band, though. It wouldn’t be like Sam to do anything the normal or typical way. I’m pretty sure there’s no other band this metallic sounding that would open an album with a guest appearance via voice-mail by R. Stevie Moore. Alongside the averaging-one-minute songs, chugging crust riffs, and blastbeats, No Justice Just Law bears the unmistakeable Samuel Locke-Ward stamp in its lyrical themes, multiple-personality-disorder vocal role-playing, screwball sense of humor, and basement 4-track production, all combining to make this a take on brutality that you most likely haven’t heard before. Sam’s brother-in-law Andy is along on drums, a fellow named Brando is on guitar, and there is no bass, and they take to hammering home these tunes with an appealing bluntness.

If I had any quibble it would be with the closing track “Jesus Saves” as it’s chorus is basically a direct rephrasing of that of “Save The Daughter” from Sam’s solo debut, the self-released CD-R EP Harness The Power Of Lightening, and recycles a lyrical trope that he’s pretty much beaten to death by ths point; indeed, Sam’s jabs at Christianity are starting to get a bit hackneyed and predictable to someone who’s followed his career since the beginning. But this is probably not going to be a problem for most, especially if this is your introduction to Sam’s unique brand of madness. So order up this cassette for $3 right now at Sam’s web site and bang your fucking head.

Yep. Already. Better get to work listening.

Also, just released today, this collaboration between Hal McGee and Kris Gruda:

neon lushell cover

Cheezy as it may be, I’d kinda hoped Workerbee Records would have this thing out in time for Halloween. This is great creep-out music so it would have been seasonally appropriate.

Neon Lushell is a duo of Ira Rat and Switchblade Cheetah lead singer and poet Brian Pitt. Ira backs up Pitt’s disturbing imagery with fittingly disturbing sounds, a mix of bad-trip-hop and cold ambient nausea that smells like a dank old basement with bloodstained granite walls.

Pitt’s performances are phoned-in — literally: he submits his vocal tracks via voice-mail from Tallahassee, Florida. Ira edits these into the final creations in Ames, Iowa, making the most of the distant, disconnected feel with which this process endows Pitt’s varied contributions of aggressive rapping, distracted crooning, madman raving, spoken-word storytelling, and stream-of-consciousness.

Although “Leave Me Alone” and “Sammy’s Rap” build their dark atmospheres around groovy beats, the rest of the album is rhythmically impressionistic, a series of mixtures of floating processed sounds that blur the distinctions between “real” instruments and abstract synthesized ones, even when something recognizable as, say, a mandolin or an acoustic guitar appears, and stubbornly refuse to completely cohere, leaving the listener helplessly adrift. “Everybody Died, I Survived” backs a dreamlike ghost story about a shipwreck with throbbing electronic bass sounds that will threaten to blow your speakers. Various Workerbee figures make guest appearances, including Thunder Bunny on “Grave Bells,” where an wince-worthy abrasive metallic scrape grows to dominate the mix.

Even if you’re already into the experimental/noise music milieu, Modern Purveyors of Filth and Degradation probably sounds like nothing else in your collection, and is likely to be one of the more unsettling sonic trips you will take.

NOTE: the following bandcamp player is for a 5-song advance promo version of the album; the full enchilada is expected to come out on CD like Real Soon Now. Get in contact with Ed and see about pre-ordering.

I was contacted via email by a guy from Victory & Associates because they had seen a review I wrote here recently for the new Poison Control Center album, and they had played some gigs with them out west and hit it off well and he liked what I had written so he thought he’d see if he could get These Things Are Facts slipped into my listen-and-write-stream.

Well, my listening and music-making habits have been on a turn for the weird of late, focusing on noise and agression and heaviness, so Victory & Associates was tough to fit into my mood, but it’s not hard to see how they make sense on a bill with the mighty Poison Control Center. Both play high-energy fun electric guitar music with catchy vocals. Of the two, I’d say V & A is coming from slightly more of the wiseass collegiate power-pop angle. They’re tight in most of the places where PCC lets it all hang out.

Going from the band name and the themes of the songs, I’d say V & A is a bit of a concept band, set up to do songs about victory and everything associated with it. Nearly every track on These Things Are Facts touches on overcoming difficulties, toughing it out, getting a move on, and winning through persistence and determination. This all felt a bit sporto until it occurred to me that these guys may have just got tired of all the defeat and victim-play and slackerism that has dominated popular music for the past couple decades and decided to do something about it. That’s worthwhile.

The whoa-o pop-punk-isms of opening track “Get Tough, Get Through It” were a tough sell for me, but should appeal to anyone who was one of those kids in the ’90s who couldn’t get enough Screeching Weasel. As that’s a description that fits many of my old friends, it’s an artistic choice that deserves respect on its own terms. It’s clear at the outset that Victory & Associates have a way with a hook as they wallop you with one after another. “You Can’t Eat Prestige” measures a little lighter on the cheeze meter, and together these two songs form a vector pointing towards a more indie-friendly approach, hinted at by the gritty fuzz guitar sound, where the album heads next.

I found These Things Are Facts especially appealing through its middle section. The best aspects of pop-punk’s melodic sensibility persist, coupled with a mix of riffy guitar crunch and new-wave angularity that reminds me of Enon or this Chicago band Geronimo! that I’ve been hoping I could get to come play in Des Moines, plus an edge of Nomeansno snark in the delivery. “You Can’t Stop The Signal” resembles a classic Fugazi song. A wide range of stylistic tricks are employed on the guitars including an East Bay Ray style surf-guitar solo in the middle of the reckless “Funundrum” and Gang Of Four scrapes and harmonics in the small-town slam “Not Returning.” Musically there’s enough to like here that I can just about forgive their using the word “haterade” in a lyric.

There are other definite cheezball moments — “Mistake Museum” makes two lyrical references to David Lee Roth, for example. I’m not quite sure what the point of “Turn Down The Guitars (’11)” is beyond a series of ironic self-referential statements about the volumes of instruments in a rock band, something that’s probably more fun live than on record. But I think maybe the whole album is intended to be self-referential, as if a big part of the band’s concept is in telling the story of the band itself. If this realization eludes the listener at first, it becomes clear with the closing track “Home Is Where You Hang Your Hope”, which mellows out the tempo and introduces just a dab of country flavor while full-circle referencing the opening track: “Got tough, got through this,” is shouted, as if declaring a victory in the completion of the album, but the song also declares their readiness for the next challenge they have ahead of them, the laid-back feel of this three and half minutes meant to be just a short rest and recuperation.

It’s hard to miss the inspirational tone of These Things Are Facts, it is indeed the album’s main takeaway, and Victory & Associates indisputably succeed in bringing over the energy level and memorable songs needed to communicate it. It would make a very good album for recovering from a depression, or keeping you motivated when you need it.

More noisy evil goodness afoot! I’ve just received my share of the mighty short run of 3″ CD-Rs of my split release with the awesome Georgia harsh electronics/noise/anything entity Marax, who by the way also has several contributions on Hal McGee’s Contact compilations found in the preceding post and a lot of other fine releases besides.

Have a listen right here and then score the 3″ disc from me (see the “mail order/trade list” link to the right) or from Marax.