Reviews

Write-ups on the latest EP’s and Albums!

Martial Canterel ‘Horizon Ltd.’

Algorithms are only reflective of the society which creates it. The nations biases and presumptions of class aptitude revealed dramatically in the U.K. school results fiasco, whereby the flawed predictive model used by the examinations regulator Ofqual to assign grades to students unable to take their exams due to COVID scored pupils from public school higher than the majority in state comprehensives. Similarly, the plethora of data-dictated playlists vying for attention on streaming sites like Spotify are, as consistent with the increasingly marketised world, pushing for perennial consumption over the authentic discovery of underrepresented artists. There is no risk in the world of voracious capital, and as the ubiquity of automated culture grows greater, our scope for a truly alternative community or movement fades into further artifice.

“…the dissolution of space and time, the emptying out of the future – the narrowing of our collective Horizon.” There’s always been a cerebral rigour to Martial Canterel‘s work. Initially studying philosophy before being taken by the synthesizer in his college music lab, Brooklyn based artist Sean McBride began crafting a thoroughly chilly take on synthpop anchored by a veneration for live analogue hardware and heady examinations of existentialist themes. Finding greater fame as one half of Xeno & Oaklander, McBride has steadily been releasing a string of work under the Martial Canterel moniker which continues his immersion of the coldwave heritage and provides a crunchier, industrial menace in contrary to the more glacial and ethereal electronics of his collaboration with Liz Wendelbo. Latest EP Horizon Ltd. sees McBride explore the eroding space and vision for the mistakes and variables which encourage art and the creative process.

EP opener ‘Remake the World’ establishes the mission statement succinctly and with dramatic urgency. A call to arms against the forces of passivity and the derivative with harsh drum beats and foreboding melody bristle against McBride’s distinct mastery of cascading sequencers and volatile frequencies. Caustic grooves slither with a weird carnal strut on the robotic swagger of ‘Melegseg’ (meaning ‘warmth’ in Hungarian), an irresistible blend of abrasive but funky percussion and cutting synths that slink and glide like the singing keys on Depeche Mode’s ‘Leave in Silence’Excavating his back-catalogue to rework 2007’s Other Half, the austere sting of the original is given greater sonic expanse of frenetic angst which recalls the aggressive dissonance as heard on Gyors Lassú, before the title track hits you with expert punchy basslines and metallic clangour which demonstrate McBride’s masterful ability to fuse seemingly difficult textures with dancefloor energy.

The corporate death grip of our collective horizon has been expertly articulated in another fantastic entry to a body of work which has been establishing itself as one of the most forward-thinking and pioneering in contemporary electronic music. Cutting the iciest and most fascinating examples of minimal-synth, Horizon Ltd. shows clearly that Martial Canterel is still full of ideas and retains a clear voice in the crowded synth scene filled with ‘imitations of imitations’ he no doubt inspired.

Gee Tee ‘Atomic’

“Irreverent monsters in muscle cars” is how Odd Rods describe themselves. A series of trading cards by National Lampoon’s B. K. Taylor depicting various cartoonish creatures in oversized hot rods in the vein of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s Rat Fink. #3 in the initial ’69 set is Gee-Tee-O, an über cool green goblin with buck teeth and shades sporting a straggly beard of coarse, rodent-hair, impishly pushing his skull gear stick into full throttle, smirking as he risks death in the chase of the acceleration high.

Cars, racing and speed were initially the sole subject matter for Gee Tee when forming in 2016. A lo-fi scuzzy garage rock project fronted by Aussie Kal Mason as former band Draggs ground to a halt, Mason decamped from his native Gold Coast to dive head-first in the weirdopunk revolution happening in Sydney spearheaded by kindred mutants Research Reactor Corp. and Set-Top Box. After a string of fantastically polluted rock ‘n’ roll releases and side projects with the aforementioned R.R.C. and Drunk Mums, Gee Tee show no sign of slowing down as they drop latest EP Atomic via Italian label Goodbye Boozy Records.

An infectiously corroded little Wurlitzer melody surrounded by strutting indie riffing opens the EP on the buoyant ‘Kombat Kitchen’ a fuzzed-out flaunt of garage murk that touches on the organ-driven sounds of ? and the Mysterians. Second track “Mutant World” shoves a straw up your nose and fills your mind with coke, blood and slug pellets, a feverish and electric synthpunk stomper that Gee-Tee-O would proudly exit this world in a fiery crash to. ‘Atomic’ is a beguiling beast, some no-nonsense pub-rock chug with a scratchy vocal delivery akin to War’s Low Rider. It shouldn’t work, perhaps it doesn’t, but you’re too taken with the warbling theremin to care. Things ends on a note of pure rock ‘n’ roll zest were it soaked in sewage and radiation, a bright and upbeat bopper with a killer chainsaw solo piercing through the noxious film.

Atomic is another gloriously rancid little fucker that further cements Mason’s reputation as one of the leading figures in Aussie scuzzpunk but skilled enough to allow sharp pop-hooks in his lo-fi murk. Messy, greasy, weird, and all the better for it.

INDIGOS ‘INDIGOS’

It took a global pandemic but the free market zealots finally paused the capitalist hamster-wheel (after much equivocation and an obscene death toll). Long inured by a lifetime of merciless labour extraction, a percentage of the overworked and underpaid were granted the simple, Marxist ideal of free time. This freedom to allow personal development away from the neoliberal grind could be both liberating and terrifying. Alone with your thoughts and little else, deep rumination and introspective wanderings can take place, reaching profound epiphany or painful reconciling with wounds that lie buried and unresolved.

“Self-reflection, projection, nostalgia…”. The lyrical themes of INDIGOS, as stated on their Bandcamp, feel inexorably linked to this reflective pivot that hangs in the air. Like the mysterious duality of night and day adorning their latest cover, the Bristol-based heavy pop trio have crafted an exquisite blend of psychedelic shoegaze and slacker grunge that uncannily scores the contemporary contemplation and its trepidation. Sharing a love for 90s alternative rock like Smashing Pumpkins and Pixies, INDIGOS, along with kindred spirits Wych Elm, anchor their lethargic fuzz with a keen ear for subtle but infectious pop hooks. After winning support slots with Cherry Glazerr and rotation on 6 Music, INDIGOS finally drop their debut EP via AC30 Records and co-production help from IDLES guitarist Lee Kiernan.

Sophia Barnes’ mean bass opens INDIGOS on the explosive ‘Silhouette of You’, pitch-perfect loud/quiet dynamics straight out of Doolittle ending with a strung-out thrash that’s both heady and electric. Guitarist Jack Croft’s swirling jangle expertly percolates around Barnes’ spooky vocals on the eerie ‘I’m Healed’, before the stirring ‘Animalistic’ displays an anthemic rigour to their tripped-out post-punk. Finale ‘Out of Body’ is simply stunning, a gorgeous meander through a hazy daydream of ethereal effects washes and Barnes’ cooly delicate vocals before an awesome guitar attack that recalls the breathtaking solos from Siamese Dream.

Thrillingly ethereal without ever becoming lost in its sonic expanse, INDIGOS is four tracks of impeccable psych-rock that veers between light and dark with ease, channelling the ambiguity of our collective uncertainty with exceptional insight.

Syzygy ‘The Pendulum’

“Any two related things, either alike or opposite”. Amid an aggressive socio-economic homogeneity, where any slight deviation of rabid capitalism’s ever closing peripheries of permissible discourse is crushed by a compliant media, the yearning for some elemental, binary pull only grows greater. The political pendulum which conventional wisdom tells us is forever swinging across the spectrum is currently stuck on Right, and perhaps the vital forces of syzygy need to be conjured to haul the lever back down, crashing through the dull certainty of the modern age.

Structures and balance are explored in Rebecca Maher and Gus Kenny’s new synth project Syzygy. Swapping the cyberpunk confrontation of prior band Spotting for shimmering electropop, the Melbourne duo injects the genre’s chilly aesthetics with a warm beating heart of rich melodies and bright analogue production. Preceding their debut EP with an inclusion on the excellent Blow Blood Records compilation A Long Time Alone, new release The Pendulum sees Syzygy’s search for duality in the form of four expert synthpop tracks.

The urgent title track opens the EP with dramatic heft, a great joyous hammering of jabbing basslines and glossy keys that strikes together radiantly, Maher maintaining a strong yet understated vocal delivery throughout. The crunchy ‘Social Fence’ retains their former punk snarl, a climactic frenzy of John Foxx style synth leads and punchy drum machines, while ‘Memory Distortion’ drops the tempo to a glacial groove, Maher’s icy detailing of blurred recollections and fragmented thoughts given an ethereal edge. Finale ‘(I’ll Just Be) Unfulfilled’ is an utterly infectious slice of euphoric heady dance which belies its lyrical resignations to a life of rigid, societal claustrophobia, the song takes off halfway in soaring and rousing lift of twinkling arpeggios and celestial sequencers to a thrilling, conclusive ascension.

The energy that fuels The Pendulum is effervescent and electric, an EP of bristling pop vigour bursting with life and a wonderful precariousness that hides underneath the assured front, the subtle forces that tantalisingly threaten life’s cohesion and harmony baring its teeth if you look close enough.

Belle Royals ‘FTBAASBVSREP’

Geordie noise rock trio Belle Royals are full of intrigue. Is there self-coined ‘9wave’ genre a sincere reference to Ivan Aivazovsky’s Ninth Wave or a deprecating jibe at new age, ‘third eye’ dross? What does their latest EP title FTBAASBVSREP stand for? Is the ‘Battle of Black And Red’ graffitied across their Rage Against the Machine pastiche of a cover a historic, Tyneside skirmish, or merely referencing the Tyne-Wear football derby? With their Bandcamp info statements short bursts of inscrutable jocularity, frontman Duane Eggers pushes the band’s idiosyncratic humour to the fore which creates their own irreverent brand of mystique.

Following from the electronica slicked post-punk of prior release SCPPFTBAASEP, latest EP FTBAASBVSREP is another blast of crunchy, mutoid cacophony. First track ‘Recourse to Pile’ is a soldierly collage of martial drums and Gang of Four groove that marches together with earnest propulsion, Eggers vocal delivery reminiscent of Ian MacKaye and Al Jourgensen’s Pailhead project. Expert garage rock saturated with polluted buzz shows the band’s guile for a good tune on the electric ‘Four Foot Big Foot’, a sparky guitar solo soars irresistibly amid choppy punk riffs. Third and final track ‘BVSR’ ends things on a chaotic note, industrial clangour and atonal synths wrestle belligerently in a cavernous swirl of erratic tempo and juddering beats.

Held together by a cohesive slop of abrasive, lo-fi production yet allowing distinct characteristic hues among the three tracks, FTBAASBVSREP firmly confirms that Belle Royals are ones to watch out for in the ‘9wave’ underground of both the Toon and Mackem.

Juicebumps ‘Hello Pinky!’

Before the millennials came of age, nostalgia looked like film. The brief moments of colour in Scorsese’s black and white opus Raging Bull depict La Motta’s facade of cosy domesticity in intimate 16mm, the very grain of each frame in the celluloid reel prodding the wistful sentimentality of prior generations. For kids of the 90s, warm reminiscence is a rather noisy media buzz of worn VHS’s, queasy DV digital grit and crowded Geocities World Wide Web clamour. Could the video horrorshow of The Memory Hole have ever gained traction outside the distorted humour and inexplicable acerbity of the 2010s?

Irreverent and idiosyncratic penchants for the crude aesthetics of tawdry infomercials and ‘edutainment’ dross ooze all over San Francisco spank rockers Juicebumps. Audio clips of slasher turkey Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2, dated internet demonstrations and the like saturate debut album Hello Pinky!, a record that feels perpetually tuning itself between differing stations. Recruiting Spencer Owings for synth duties, Juicebumps advance from the jerky garage rock of prior EP Jelly and delve deeper into their eccentric art-punk playfulness.

The sticky yolk of eggpunk secretes all over their self-described ‘spookwave’ yet avoids the genres characteristic lo-fi style in favour of a bright and confident production, each riff and beat striding with satisfying clarity. This skewed radiance is deftly exemplified on the catchy as hell ‘Hairy World’, a feverish indie number with echoes of Devo, frontman Parker Richard exploring the pungent world for a ‘hairy friend’ while jumping between frantic gusto and angular, nasal whine. Second track but first proper song ‘Wet Leather’ infuses their brash virtuosity with a steady dose of motorik beat that paces alongside offbeat keys and explosive guitar attacks and smattered with garbled audiotape effects, parading their dexterous handling of keen musicianship and avant-garde proclivities.

The expanded palette of sounds yielded by producer Spencer Hartling’s studio expertise shine on the warped synthpop of ‘c0mput3r_p30pl3’, a disorienting stew of fizzy drum machines and atonal guitar scoring the themes of societies hopeless tie to technology expertly, the line “people work, computers think” bristling with particular pertinence. Subtle rockabilly twangs on the contorted ‘Wet Boi’, while the arrangement and tempo of ‘Trash Crimes’ point to ELO at their pomp. Album closer ‘Asphalt Kiss’ is all groove, a nimble swagger of strutting bass wading through a marsh of muggy synths and preset sounding percussion, the gurgling electronics finally enveloping as you sink completely in its analogue murk.

Imbued with the best of their San Fran art-punk predecessors, Juicebumps delivers an urgent debut that takes intriguing mixtures of disparate styles and unexpected detours in composition, demanding constant attention throughout its 36 minutes. Hello Pinky! firmly places the band as one of the most exciting acts in California right now.

Sex 2 ‘Sex 2’

Remember XX Teens, an art-punk, alt-disco band of sorts from the tail-end of the 2000s whose Google results would yield a world of accidental hardcore? Searching for San Clemente’s Sex 2 are wrought with similar pitfalls but spiked with a queasy dose of contemporary, political rot: ‘ANTIHERO949‘ advertising his alleged ‘lingual prowess’ in local hook-ups site confounds against alt-right slime clogging some forum with their transphobia dressed-up as ‘defending the pillars of society’. Unwittingly no doubt, but Sex 2 in their own irreverent way lifted the lid on American society and exposed the fester of desperation and insecurity that lurks underneath.

Sex 2’s scuzzy splurge of lo-fi, punk thrash feels inexorably linked to the polluted waters of Doheny Beach, one can imagine their self-titled EP landing on the table of White Glove Records soaked and clammy with seaweed and used condoms. A garbled phone call from an irate customer opens the first track ‘Doheny State Beach Visitor Center’ before plunging into a satisfying dirge of Bleach style grunge and shout-along vocals. Sluggish stoner sludge clobbers on the oozing ‘Sex 2 On The Beach’, the vocalist spitting “I do whatever the fuck I want, this is my beach” as he takes a piss all over the surf culture of sunny OC.

The band make further public nuisances of themselves on ‘Biking Under The Influence’, crashing headfirst over the handlebars into the strung-out psych-blast of ‘Take So Long’ containing an electric, LSD soaked solo while you nurse a broken nose and scour the pavement for your bag of MDMA. A brief moment of echoing contemplation veils the obscured monologue of penultimate track ‘Fuck Sex 2’ before launching into the pummeler ‘Ashley Wants a New Porsche’, a furious charge of DC hardcore that ends with the opening drum beat from what sounds like Devo’s ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ and a pastiche of Dr. Dre G-funk reminding us that tongues (perhaps ANTIHERO949’s) are firmly in cheek.

Authentically conjuring the proud punk heritage of California and injecting a sardonic bite that feels vigorously current, Sex 2 is an adrenaline shot of derisive snot which gets you through another day in the upside-down sump of the Trumpian landscape.

Special Interest ‘The Passion Of’

“I don’t believe in safe spaces” singer and artist Alli Logout scoffs in an interview with OMG.Blog. The danger that hung in the air of post-punk acts like Throbbing Gristle or Suicide was only reflective of a sick world consumed with violence and the thin, veneer of civilisation society deludes itself with. Throw in nationalist fervour and virulent entitlement from an enraged white demographic who would sooner see concentration camps than equal social standing for all citizens, then ‘safety’ increasingly becomes the preserve of the privileged few. When toxic prejudice sneers confidently in paramilitary garb and an AR-15, navigating the dystopian Trumpscape as a minority of any kind is inherently wrought with threat. If Logout doesn’t feel safe in the hostile cesspool of 2020, why should you?

All eyes are on New Orleans right now, the historic cultural melting-pot witnessing a unique and new wave of murky synth acts such as Static Static, Pscience, and Tuffy. Rising from the Mississippi backwaters and spearheading the city’s electro-underground is Special Interest, a synthpunk glam quartet spiked with no-wave nihilism and industrial venom. Named after the s̶e̶e̶d̶y̶ fun corners of old VHS stores where one would find cult movies, horror and porno, their namesake spirit of transgression and provocation fuel frontwoman Logout’s volatile performance style and the bands abrasive anarcho assault. Dropping second album The Passion Of, Special Interest invites us to make sense of the confusing miasma of rapacious capital and a world in flames.

The corrosive potency first unleashed on prior LP Spiraling still burns with acidic ferocity. The thematic centrepiece of the record ‘Homogenized Milk’ brutally attacks the necrotic agents of gentrification with a pummeling beat-down of discordant squall and fuzzy drum machines succinctly illustrating the gaping, slavering maw of market greed. Maria Elena’s guitar cuts thrillingly through the cavernous cynicism of ‘With Love’, instilling an urgency that propels the end sentiment of one’s pursuit of happiness at all costs. Cheap hedonism to stave off the grinding, gnawing boredom is both celebrated and commiserated on the adrenaline jolt of ‘Disco III’, a sordid and defiant embrace of debauchery and unapologetic pleasure yet touches the void which “sodomy and LSD” perhaps tries to fill.

There’s a beguiling groove beneath their caustic onslaught. The club swagger of ‘All Tomorrow’s Carry’ belies the acerbic observations of malignant urban planning, Ruth Mascelli conjuring the spirit of Iggy Pop’s ‘Nightclubbing’ with her steady, processed beat and eerie keys, while Logout shows just how raw and soulful her vocals can be on the electrifying ‘A Depravity Such As This…’. The albums secret weapon is its penultimate track ‘Street Pulse Beat’, a radiant moment of euphoric respite which hypnotically soars above the post-punk smog with stirring synth choirs and delicate, chiming timbres scoring the dark heartbeat of a city filled with lost souls seeking sexual or chemical escape.

Special Interest has synthesised the acidic bite of abrasive noise-rock with the bombast of glam to produce a synthpunk beast entirely their own. The Passion Of is a thrilling sophomore effort which forges new sonic territory for the band and explores the claustrophobic terror of the modern age with savage precision.

Backxwash ‘God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It’

‘Witchcraft’ is a term historically defined by Western colonists and labelled on to any custom or culture which didn’t adhere to Christian dogma. Forced to dilute their potent African spirituality to please their British oppressors, the Chewa and Tumbuka people of Southern-Central Africa have co-opted elements of Protestantism in their centuries-old Gule Wamkulu, a ritual dance performed by initiated men of the Nyau brotherhood. Originally celebrating the integration of the communities young men into adulthood, the many masks and costumes that represent evil spirits, wild animals or immoral temptation are slowly losing their original purpose and played out for the entertainment of boring, white tourists.

“I think you mad cos you lost control, you want me to fall in line on the X’s and O’s” spits Backxwash on the condemning ‘Black Sheep’, a painful denunciation of family betrayal during their non-binary discovery. Sampling the Gule Wamkulu practice, Zambian born Ashanti Mutinta performs their own ritual of catharsis and grapples with one of the key recurring themes of their work: the demons that gnaw inside members of the trans community on their arduous road to embracing their identity. Now based in Montreal, Backxwash has been cutting a unique brand of horrorcore hip hop full of hypnotic beats and warped production that’s both aggressive yet introspective. Releasing their second album proper via the queer label Grimalkin Records, Mutinta channels church choir music and televangelical sermons from their youth to reach further into the heart of the haunted wood, and themselves.

God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It (derived from a line in Spanish horror film Verónica) is a white hot flame of cavernous bombast and hellish evocations, sharing similarities with Ministry’s Psalm: 69 both with artwork and heretical aura, establishing the dark tone of the record. Ozzy Osbourne’s wail of doom from ‘Black Sabbath’ circles around echoing drums and whispering incantations illustrating Backxwash’s spiritual conflict, the deep desire to sin against those who’ve sinned you. Mall Date lends their vocals to the bowel-churning ‘Into The Void’, Nine Inch Nails’s ‘Reptile’ grinds and scrapes against a massive droning guitar attack capturing the songs visceral examination of paranoia and vulnerability when navigating a world where every street corner lurks prejudice with a knife. Backxwash breathes new life into a sample as ubiquitous to hip hop as Led Zeppelin’s ‘When the Levee Breaks’, John Bonham’s famous heavy percussion colliding with eerie keyboards scoring Mutinta’s moving letter to their younger bother, detailing their fears and anxieties in the starkly intimate ‘Adolescence’.

Backxwash’s expert production remain as fresh and creative as prior releases Black Sailor Moon and Deviancy. The brittle beats of ‘Spells’ are devilishly seductive, Devi McCallion‘s raspy guest vocals are stretched and elasticated, imbued with occult-like, midnight howls. Mutinta’s love for Missy Elliot’s chunky rhythmic sonics shine on the furious ‘Amen’, a spiky stab of venom at religious greed and corruption. Inviting fatherfake and Skunk Anansie’s Skin to produce the respective Heaven and Hell interludes provide welcome shifts in mood, the latter utilising ‘The Lady in the Radiator’ from Eraserhead to chilling effect, and Will Owen Bennett’s studio contributions end the album on a note of faded, gospel contemplation, a wounded but defiant hope both personally and for the fucked-up world we’re all in, summed-up beautifully with the exclamation “feel like you lost a son but you gained a daughter”.

Backxwash’s sophomore effort achieves an extraordinary double feat of instilling further density and ethereal intensity to their volatile sound yet still maintaining a punchy, punk urgency. God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It is a fantastic and fascinating mesh of Gothic murk and industrial might which explores the themes of ‘forgiveness’ and facing ones torments with guttural yet poetic insight.

Albert Severin ‘Athletics’

Berlin’s grip on the cutting-edge of post-punk and electronic music never seems to ebb, from Bowie’s Kraftwerk inspired Hansa records, the alienated clangour of the Neue Deutsche Welle, to the hedonistic techno Mecca of The Berghain, the city’s innovative energy continuing to inspire. With no sign of the old Prussian capital resting on its laurels, Detriti Records has spent the last decade releasing numerous synth and coldwave tapes, establishing itself as one of the leading champions of “beautiful, interesting and sexy music”, to quote label founder Davide Lace.

The latest addition to the Detriti roster is Danish EBM act Albert Severin. A solo project from former MOTH member and Melting Walkmen frontman Patrick Ringsborg (and possibly named after a distinguished French soldier of WW1), the new beat Copenhagener has released a string of tapes exploring a penchant for acid techno. New tape Athletics sees Ringsborg pursue a tougher, more industrial direction, including three songs from debut tape Severin’ Heads re-recorded with harsher potency.

The very first second of the opening track ‘B.R.I.A.N.’ establishes the attitude promptly: Lean, muscular and groovy. A thick bassline stomps alongside punchy drum machines with brass presets straight out of classic Wax Trax! so infectious it’ll make any committed rivethead proud. Ballardian car crash fascination pervades the dramatic ‘Impact’ warped audio samples of crash PSA’s haunt the strong shimmering melody like a spiritual successor to Front 242’s ‘Don’t Crash’. The enlightened serenity of the tape cover radiates on ‘Sugarfang’, a beguiling tranquillity of ethereal keys behind the frenzied percussion before ‘Modem’ jumps headfirst into Ringsborg’s love of squelchy acid house without totally abandoning that special industrial grit. Final track ‘Albert’s Song About the inherent Flaws and Fatal Consequences of Late Stage Capitalism’ says it all, leaving you pondering the neoliberal nightmare we’re subjected to with one last crunch of programmed abrasion and a welcome introduction of Gothic piano.

Albert Severin has managed to distil a wide range of sub-genres into a cohesive kick of an EP while always maintaining its terse minimalism. Athletics is tough as fucking nails yet never loses its eye on making you dance.