Author: Thomas Phelan

Writer and film-maker, and music lover.

Cyberplasm ‘The Psychic Hologram’

The closest thing to an official online presence, besides their Bandcamp, is a manifesto of sorts on ‘Thee Cyberplasm Institute’, a cryptic page extolling the hidden powers that lie in the psyche and consciousness. A mini-panic ensues when a strange MIDI file starts downloading as if accidentally stumbling upon some dank, dark web illegality. This is Videodrome for the social media age.

Cyberplasm are an industrial noise-thrash trio from Olympia, Washington, dosed up on William Gibson and 2000 AD Comics spitting caustic punk declarations of war on the socially constructed peripheries of the body amid buzzing ‘Nag Nag Nag’ guitars and acrid drum machines. The electrical smoulder first hinted at on last years EP What Is Flesh? is given more scope to burn with greater ferocity on their debut LP, out via Iron Lung Records.

At just under half an hour, The Psychic Hologram packs hardcore punk, EBM aggro-synths and even a touch of NWOBHM heavy metal into a volatile mix of ephemeral fury. Mötorhead speed filtered through a computer screams with indignant rage on ‘Dopamine Machinery’, before the tekno D.C. pummel of ‘Beyond the Mind’ tears you limb from limb while imploring you to seek beyond the physical realm.

Punchy arpeggios pulse and hiss on the febrile title track, a moment of tense and taut respite amid the electro discord, while the dystopic synths creep again with stinging minimalism on ‘Perfect Body Pt. II’. Sticky residue clings from the two tracks, both terse warnings of the fascist threat on bodily autonomy.

With the cyberpunk themes and imagery potentially looking silly in a lesser artists hands, Cyberplasm has utilised succinctly what makes sci-fi the societal anxiety exorcising and cerebral force it can be, while delivering some of the harshest and exhilarating punk rock that’s out there.

Visit Thee Cyberplasm Institute here.

SUCK ‘Frog’

Germany has witnessed a renaissance in garage rock over the last few years, the proto-punk sounds of Nervous Eaters and The Dictators well and truly alive amid the roster of bands under the wings of labels like Alien Snatch! and La Pochette Surprise.

Shoving Hamburg and Berlin out the way for the title of most thriving punk scene is Kassel, home to lo-fi psych-rockers Sick Teeth. With members of scuzzy contemporaries Catch as Catch Can and Counts on Crack teaming up with comic zine artist Isabell Rutz, ‘Casselfornia’ has a new and fuzzy mutant lurking in it’s Fulda waters…

SUCK’s debut EP Frog is 6 jabs of superb, synth-laden garage-punk, and hits ‘ya instantaneously like an intracardiac injection with opener ‘Gimme Your Number, an insanely catchy blast of beat-up keyboards and call and response shrieks which rubs shoulders with the best of the class of ’77. Filthy psych works its way into ‘Bulletproof’, frantic guitar chops corroded with nasty analogue keys clogging the thrash with Moogy murk. Double denim hard-rock changes pace on the Sabbath inspired ‘Mama’s Got a Backpatch’, riffs veering between nice and doomy and urgent punk crackle, all held together with Rutz’s commanding vocals, before final track ‘SUK’ ends the EP on a note of pure hot-rod acceleration.

SUCK may well be the most exciting thing in Germany right now, and with Frog, have delivered 16 minutes of exemplary punk rock, full of hooks, spit, and swagger.

SANS ‘Misophonic Songs’

Misophonia literally means ‘hatred of sound’, the phenomena whereby specific sounds can trigger negative physical and emotional reactions. The cover of last years single Limbo features what looks like a tormented call centre worker driven to the edge, just one more crushing and useless phone call away from a profound spiritual chaos. Misophonic Songs, like Fear of Music, is an apt signal of the unease contained within…

SANS are a post-punk trio steadily making a name for themselves with their energised and cacophonous live shows in Bristol. Stirring a noxious brew of ‘Naomi Punk’ like time signatures, gargantuan metal wrath and throat shredding screams, the intensity of their sets has been exorcised all too well for their debut album.

Shellac riffing opens the record on ‘Meaningless’, a noise-rock pendulum veering with awesome force between seething punk venom and nimble indie introspection. The cosmic savagery of Swans dominates the eerie ‘Wipe Dread’, crashing, rolling drums pummel your soul amid a cold, static wind, before deteriorating into a febrile ruin of whispers.

(What sound like) double drum pedals are most welcome on the furious ‘OK’, a touch of Sepultura’s ‘Roots Bloody Roots’ explode into a twisted and disorientating whirl of volatility. The thickest, nastiest, bass you’ve ever heard churn and scrape on the sinister chug of ‘It’s Your Party Priscilla…I’m Just Dancing on the Tables’, their more psychedelic inclinations fighting against the ravaged guitar scratching wail that closes the track.

At just 28 mins, SANS impressively take the weighty cohesion of a Swans record and distill it into a taut and punchy mini-album, both epic yet burning with white hot urgency.

Spit ‘n’ Static! 1020 Radio #4

The Spit ‘n’ Static! signal invaded Bristol’s 1020 Radio once again, a full hour of avant-punk-synth-trash-fuck-spit from the unknown. Expose yourself to the slime same time, same place next month! 👽 👌

Glaciers Noods Radio #6

Take shelter from the punishing July sun with the sixth Glaciers show, another hour of chilly synths and analogue tundras, via Bristol’s Noods Radio gang ❄️ 🎹 👌

EXCAVATIONS #2 Aviador Dro ‘Alas sobre el Mundo’

In the 1913 avant-garde opera Victory over the Sun, ‘The Aviator’ crashes into the Tenth Country and is greeted warmly by the ‘New Men’, beings of geometrical abstractions courtesy of Russian stage designer and founder of Suprematism Kazimir Malevich. A futurist allegory on the natural and material shackles man eternally tries to shake, its rejection of aesthetic decadence set the precedence with which Soviet constructivism was to follow, an evolution of futurism deemed so dangerous by the later Stalinist state many of its key figures were persecuted and arrested.

From the ashes of the Franco regime in Spain was another generation of kids hungry for the ‘new’. Concurrent to the emerging German Neue Deutsche Welle and New York No Wave came La Movida Madrileña, a hedonistic and transgressive counter-cultural movement intoxicated with punk rock and hungry to form a new Spanish identity.

With a shared love of Dadaism, sci-fi, cinema, and technology, Servando Carballar and Arturo Lanz (later of Esplendor Geométrico fame) formed Aviador Dro, or to give their full name: El Aviador Dro y sus Obreros Especializados (The Aviator Dro and his specialised workers). Armed with a constructivist ethos and the subversive synthpunk of Devo, the new musical explosion witnessed in the Madrid scene provided a nascent appetite for their anti-system, man machine ‘tecno-pop’.

Forming the legendary independent label DRO records to issue their first single Nuclear Sí as well as theatrical side-project Los Iniciados, pamphlets were issued in various EP’s and live performances announcing the ‘Dynamic Revolution’, a pledge to fight authoritarianism, fascism, and Catholic dogma, all crystallized in the mantra ‘Action against tradition! Death to the past!’.

The cult surrounding Aviador Dro had already gained traction by the time of their 1982 debut LP Alas sobre el Mundo, meaning ‘Wings over the World’ (or should it be into the sun?). While the comparisons with Devo were present, the shining anthem to the Utopian harmony between man and machine becoming one and dismantling the corrupt old order is more indebted to the German ‘music workers’ of Düsseldorf than the arch-cynics of Akron, Ohio, as radiantly beamed on album opener ‘Brigada de Demolición’. A hopeful and celebratory Kraftwerkian vision of the future distinct from their post-punk contemporaries and capturing the excitement of the national transition to democracy, the spirit of Lissitzky glows amid strong synth melody’s and crisp enthused drum machines.

European mythology is referenced throughout, adding an air of, dare we say, romance to the futurist vision. Ethereal undines grace the gorgeous second track ‘Ondina’, enchanting synth pop with expert subaqueous vocoders gliding in and out of Carballar’s stirring vocals. ‘Kraken’ is all electro-funk, wah guitar against thick analogue bends and ripples, the creatures of the lake resurfacing once again, before the Minotaur ‘finds a new maze’ in the garbled jittery establishment critique of synthpunk bolt ‘El Laberinto del Nuevo Minotauro’.

The soak of Pere Ubu and Devo provide shades of biting satire amid the technocratic vigour. Sardonic fizz bubbles acidicly on the biting ‘La TV Es Nutritiva’, anticipating U2’s Zoo TV with it’s examination of junk television addiction, and the weary aforementioned aviator laments past glories on the urgent and soaring ‘Selector de Frecuencies’.

Italian futurist composer Francesco Balilla Pratella’s manifesto, revered by the band, featured the point: ‘To promote new work in preference to old’. Celebrating their 40th anniversary and still drawing fascination with a new generation of Spanish music aficionados, Alas Sobre el Mundo is a brilliant document of the exciting possibilities of Spanish popular culture that arose from the death of Franco, and still points to the future as optimistically and thrillingly as it did in 1982.

Spit ‘n’ Static! 1020 Radio #3

Bristol’s 1020 Radio was exposed to the alien signal intrusion once again, another hour of synthpunk, stinging acid rain from London, aussie sludge punk and dead channel fuzz. ‘Catch the wave’ same time next month! 👽 👌

Lynks Afrikka ‘Str8 Acting’

So why should anyone be ‘straight acting’? Scroll through Grindr and every third profile will be seeking ‘Masc4Masc’, as if repressed anger and cargo shorts are appealing to anybody.

The simultaneous message of embracing ones queerness yet fetishising heteronormativity is a contradiction mused by Bristol’s Elliot Brett, producer and ‘father’ of electro-punk/drag/grenade Lynks Afrikka. Armed with a healthy dose of disregard for genre or even format (their first release being a ‘fragrance for the mind’), The Church of Lynks Afrikka has been converting with their outrageous and provocative live shows, a subversive force even within the queer community.

Moving away from the downbeat industrial pop of last years ‘Don’t Take It Personal’ second single ‘Str8 Acting’ is an off-kilter, Patrick Cowley NRG, club donk banger, nightmarish yet fun all at once. Big fat synths bounce and boing like an MDMA come-up, the potent stench of sweat and Joop! hangs in the air while the chatter of drunk students outside the Lizard Lounge thrusts you into the dankest and perhaps most boring corners of perfunctory Bristol night-life.

Drawing from the influences of the LGBTQ+ scene while being mischievous and daring enough to poke fun at it’s foibles, Str8 Acting is another gleeful tearing down of the stagnant homogeneity that dominates club culture. All hail Lynks Afrikka!!!

POW! ‘Shift’

Neu! Snap! Wah! Monosyllabic onomatopoeia with exclamation punches are telling statements of intent. POW!, named after an L.A. festival called Party Out West where band members Byron Blum and Melissa Blue met, is confidently adorned across the cover of their fourth album Shift, making quite clear that this is a record about impact and hittin’ ya. Hard.

Fleeing the death rattle of gentrified San-Fran, but taking its art punk heritage of The Screamers, The Units, and Chrome with them, POW! decamped to the fringes of L.A. to soak up the grit and broken glass that was arguably missing from 2017’s Crack an Egg. With their fangs sharper and beat-up synths ever more fizzier, POW! bring a heady brew of punk rock, avant-garde spit and the occasional LSD soaked freak out.

When POW! wanna swagger, they swagger with the best of ’em. Second track ‘Disobey’ is a static ridden garage rock banger, Blue’s oscillations tangle with Blum’s corrosive guitar, yet still tightly held together with a god given hook. The snarl of Helios Creed bears a grin on the discordant ‘Machine Animal’, Blum’s growling vocals penetrated with alien vocoders and Cameron Allen’s motorik percussion. Thick slabs of atonal analogues and electronic trash exhale and gurgle on mood pieces ‘Peter’ and ‘No World’, downbeat wanders through the wrong end of POW! town.

Shift isn’t a mere dystopic exercise however. Chant along glam-disco rises from the septic murk on ‘Free the Floor’, an irresistibly catchy number with a big, fat groove and perfectly placed hand-claps. Echoes of ‘London Calling’ haunt the fervid ‘Metal & Glue’, a straight up rock and roll tune and thrilling demonstration of Blum’s solo skills.

Fizzing, throbbing, buoyant, and electric. Shift is a glam-infused garage rock gem, left to corrode and mutate in nuclear radiation, a glorious punk assault slicked with electronic toxicity.

Glaciers Noods Radio #5

The fifth Glaciers show hit Noods Radio again, the longing for the L.A. sun replaced with blue UV light in Denial’s subversive take on 60s classic ‘California Dreaming’, and other minimal-synth gems ❄️ 🎹 👌