2020

Moron’s Morons ‘Looking For Danger’

How does garage rock get away with it? The stripped-down fuzzy fury from The Stooges through to the current ‘Kasselfornia‘ scene via 90s revivalists The Mummies never fever fails to hit ‘ya no matter how little its formula is messed with. If it ain’t broke an’ all that…

The undying appeal of scuzzy R ‘n’ R has found its way to Poland, four Warsaw misfits called Moron’s Morons adding heavy early 80s hardcore with a nasty hock of punk phlegm to their garage rock swag and unleashing Looking For Danger, a debut album as raw ‘n’ rattling as it gets.

Barely touching half an hour, Looking For Danger is the product of a band that wanna tear your face off. Lawless Dick Stingher’s opening bass attack on first track ‘Rise With Me’ makes things real fucking clear as to the character of this record: loud, fast an’ snotty. Like a cross between The Damned’s ‘Love Song’ and ‘Ace of Spades, frontman Philo Phuckface spits vocal blows mired within John Pauly Shores II’s chainsaw guitars and Turd Awesome’s percussive pummeling. You can’t quite make out what Phuckface is saying, but who cares when the lo-fi production is so urgent and electric.

Their love for punk’s many hybrids and iterations jostle and shove for your attention. 60s psych keys hammer away on the blistering ‘Wonderlust’ adding a touch of Farsifa style head feeding, while Pauley Shore’s shredding chops are gloriously demonstrated on the nitro-fuelled ‘Sidewalk Service’. Pure DC hardcore torches like a flamethrower on the raucous ‘Noise Addiction’, Phuckface’s screams at times kinda sounding like Bad Brains’ H.R. A little of that Little Richard ivory tinkle wears an affection for 50s Rock ‘n’ Roll on its sweaty sleeve on the giddy ‘Poor man’s Riffs and Ten Years Too Late’, a standout cut which suggests gallows self-deprecation at their worship at the altar of ‘learn three chords’ rock.

Living For Danger is garage punk par excellence. Every riff hacks, every beat kills, and their projectile gob never misses its target (your face). It’s filthy, it’s juvenile, and it’s fucking great!

Sign Libra ‘Sea to Sea’

Silence isn’t silent at all. Bludgeoned by the unceasing demands of our collective labour, we obediently race through life in our useless displays of ‘productivity’ desensetised to the complex aural oceans of activity bubbling away outside our puny societal constructs. Stop for a moment and you’ll hear the piercing visceral hiss of subterranean nature reminding you of its indomitable awe against man’s temporary insignificance.

The sensory ether has been explored by Sign Libra since her debut E.P. Closer to the Equator. Inspired by BBC nature programmes on the rainforest, Latvian artist and producer Agata Melnikova soundtracked the organic microcosm of the jungle with a wide-eyed wonder of liquid arrangements and airy synths. Now aiming for the stars, Melnikova has sought humanity’s fascination with the Moon’s ‘lunar maria’ as thematic guidance for her first proper album Sea to Sea.

The spiritual and mythological relationship with the heavens course throughout the record. Each track named after one of the many volcanic plains historically mistaken for ‘seas’, Melnikova uses each sea name as a foundation to direct the flavour of each track. ‘Sea of Fecundity’ suitably opens the album, a rich and euphoric stir of vocal choirs and woodwind presets, Melnikova establishes the record with an unashamed harmony of celestial reach and cheesy instrumentation. Glossy kitsch develops further with keyboard sax and big club piano, all delivered with a knowing spirit of puckish fun. It’s a song which appeals to the heart over tiresome pretensions of ‘cool’, the rest of the album following suit.

The dense interplay between percussive rhythms and Eastern Asian melodies create a beguiling balance of electronica and organic sonics similar to Japan’s Tin Drum, Melnikova adding some throat singing to add an extra layer of exotic. ‘Sea of Nectar’ features Melnikova’s treated vocals dart and flutter like Grimes across sculpted ravines of Fairlight CMI sounding production, straight out of the more buoyant cuts off Kate Bush’s The Sensual World. The chilly vibe of ‘Sea of Serenity’ provides a welcome break from the jubilant character of the album, Silent Shout style wanders of echoing whispers and nimble bass hooks that ripple in its Scandinavian tundra. Ending as it began, the final track ‘Sea of Knowledge’ is a Hi-NRG banger of majesty, a joyous jolt of giddy dance with a smattering of kitschy Prince Rama pomp.

Fluid, amorphous, and ever-changing, Sign Libra have presented a piece of work that shifts its form into enticing and unexpected patterns and creations. Sincerely igniting some ethereal electricity without tumbling into New Age po-faced nonsense, Sea to Sea is an honest and exuberant signal to an energy we could all perhaps tap into if only we stopped and paid attention.

Club Music ‘Beyond New Beat’

The most exciting thing in the American Midwest right now is Chicago Research. As much an alliance of post-punk antagonists as it is a label, it sits with Bristol’s Avon Terror Corps as one of the leading purveyors in the absolute cutting-edge of electronic mayhem and all manner of industrial racket.

Enter Ariel Motto. In addition to fronting the synth-pop project Death Valley, Motto has been decking herself in paramilitary garb and cutting some of the leanest and crunchiest EBM since the heady days of the cities Wax Trax!. Last years two E.P’s established the Club Music sound: martial basslines, cold resonance, murky vocals, a taut exercise in acrid techno and caustic grooves.

Like the foot of the T-800 crushing a human skull in the future dystopic wasteland, in smash Club Music’s first album proper Beyond New Beat. Still harnessing a laconic punch with its 22 minute length, Motto further distils her penchant for combative electronics and terse, focused production. The creeping presence of our ever ascending fascist state breathes down your neck on the icy ‘KO’, machine hit-hats and thick synths chug against screams and police sirens like some John Carpenter movie, each key omitting the sinister throb pressed with relish. Cavernous disquiet churns on the eerie ‘Mind Trader’, crisp beats puncturing weird turntable scratching and fat, slimy arpeggios.

There’s an honest to god love for sounds and textures which trigger our nostalgia for dance music of yesteryear without appearing contrived or ‘retro’, such as the orchestral stabs that jab confidently like early 90s Eurodance on the title track. You’d also be forgiven for thinking that the plinky ‘Binaural Beach 008’ wasn’t some old Warp Records compilation contribution, the frenetic ‘Battery Acid’ also feeling like the more aggressive end of IDM.

Ice-cool, muscular and razor sharp. Club Music’s debut Beyond New Beat is the prescient soundtrack to our collective hellscape that burns greater day by day, its industrial brood utterly infectious but its spirit of menace all too contemporary.

Riki ‘Riki’

The synth/darkwave scene is a genre, unfortunately, wrought with utter derivatives. Wading through the many generic goth acts that clog up Bandcamp is always worth the drudgery when discovering a Sixth June, SDH, and now, Riki.

Riki, the alias of L.A. artist and former Crimson Scarlet member Niff Nawor, swiftly cemented herself as an exciting new figure in the synthpop world with 2018’s Hot City E.P. and a string of support slots with Black Marble and Light Asylum. Teaming up with INHALT’s Matia Simovich for production duties, Riki’s affection for Neue Deutsche Welle , Italo disco and new wave pop have been poured into a bright debut album with an irresistibly lean, bold, and muscular sound.

The punch of a processed orchestral hit opens Riki, first track ‘Strohmann’ drenched in deeply satisfying ZTT Records style bombast, the pop of the snare and bassy throb leaping straight out of Trevor Horn’s E-Mu Emulator library. Its propulsive rhythm glides effortlessly with Riki’s understated vocals examining projected love onto the titular ‘Strawman’. ‘Napoleon’ is a fittingly confident and strident love letter to the French emperor that rushes to a stirring romance with unashamed killer pop hooks and Some Great Reward era production.

The weighty heft that leads the album is afforded moments of respite. The gorgeously seductive ‘Spirit of Love’ effortlessly pulses with delicate sequencers and brittle but infectious minimalism. Contemplative menace is channelled on the passionate ‘Böse Lügen’, a stirring tale of disenchantment sung entirely in German and a showcase of just how rousing Riki’s voice can be.

There is not a shred of irony or acerbity to be found on Riki, every moment is grounded in sincerity to make honest to god pop which excites the soul. Rich, decadent, and deeply romantic, Riki’s debut album is a fantastic conjuring of 80s pop while cutting a voice entirely her own.

Emma Acs ‘While I Shoot from My Fortress of Delusions’

”My love for you is like a drug” Emma Acs quietly sneers on the acerbic ‘Into Your Heart’, a stinging epitome of just how detrimental the throes of love can be. The gnawing torment of regrets, confusion, and unsatiated longing that follows a relationship breakdown can veer into obsession, often pushing us to a state of unguarded vulnerability not witnessed by anybody else. Heartache is one of the most intense experiences of the human condition, yet once passed through its test a great insight about oneself is ultimately discovered.

It’s been a busy five years since Acs’s previous album Give in to Whatever. Graduating from college, contributing to various side-projects and composing a symphony for a 50 piece orchestra, this creative momentum sees Acs jumping from her native Copenhagen to L.A. with restless energy fueled by the end of a relationship. Finding soothing catharsis in the aggressive trap of artists like XXXTentacion and the haunting arrangements of Scott Walker, new E.P. While I Shoot from My Fortress of Delusions is an enticing clash of sonic serenity bristling with buried tension.

At just seven songs, Acs achieves an impressive traverse of mood and styles which truly pushes the parameters of the E.P. format, reaching a sense of cohesion like it were her third album. This arc is established on the opening track ‘Blessed are the Faithful’, a psalm of sorts which sees Acs pleading for some divine intervention before segueing into the hazy menace of ‘Palm Trees’, an introspective wander through lulled accordion and soaring strings which belie its lyrical pugnaciousness with lines like ‘I want to hurt you so badly’.

Acs’s affection for Scott Walker courses throughout, but particularly shines on third track ‘My Beloved (Lost to Begin with)’, a swirling trip of expert jazz brass and ice-cool bass that recalls Peter Walsh’s production work on Walker’s Climate of Hunter. Synth darkwave pulses on the sombre ‘Disarmed’, a beguiling mix of electronica and Høyer Hansen’s intricate acoustic guitar that creates a brittle disquiet perfectly mirroring the themes of the futility often felt when trying to protect oneself from the slings and arrows of love.

The narrative grip never ebbs, the last two songs feeling as conclusive as the opening two were introductory. The penultimate ‘Right Here’ is devastatingly eerie, a deeply private admission of ignoble efforts to maintain a presence in our lovers lives no matter how unhealthy, perniciously pulling you in with Gothic piano drops and singing strings reminiscent of Nick Cave’s latter atmospheric output. The final blow ‘Witch Hunt Waiting Room’ is a gorgeously rousing affront of cleverly disjointed piano notes and synth choir that amounts to a terrifying wail of chills with a weird arcane energy, a fitting closure that soundtracks the nagging sense of injustice at past grievances and grudges never accounted for. A witch burning in front of a crowd hiding their own transgressions and disloyalties.

The full gamut of heartache and its many manifestations have been brilliantly distilled into an exceptional piece of work which effortlessly glides between beauty and acidic lyrical barb. While I Shoot from my Fortress of Delusions is a bold and confident statement from an artist destined for great things.

Isotope Soap ‘An Artifact of Insects’

Apparently, the source of the signal hijack known as Isotope Soap hails from Stockholm, although you’d have to take the band’s word for it. Surely this is some top-secret, extraterrestrial invasion, corrupting your speakers like the Max Headroom incident static puking into your mind fuzzy detuned images of alien encounters, psychic warfare, and Japanese office employees overworking to death. It’s hard to decipher in their garbled message whether they’re warning or mocking humanity. It’s likely both.

Mixing hardcore and the synth alienation of Chrome and The Screamers, long-time Swedish punk legend Peter Swedenhammar’s new bastard birthed project Isotope Soap is the corrosive face of the synthpunk renaissance alongside Leeches, POW!, and the roster of artists on scuzzy Sydney label Warttmann Inc. Donning radioactive PPE and black boiler suits, the band strike a truly warped impression when witnessed live, and their string of brilliantly septic singles and E.P.’s have garnered them a horde of misfits salivating for a proper debut album.

Despite clocking in at only 14 minutes, An Artifact of Insects slithers around a wide array of styles and murk. Tracks like ‘Fragile Dream’ and ‘T-T-T-Telepathic’ are quintessential synthpunk, glorious punk rock urgency rushing apace with fizzy analogues that thrust you straight into the heady era of San Fran art-punk from the late ’70s. Eerie, caustic electronics throb and pulse on stingers like ‘Hey, Karoshi!’ and ‘Zanfretta’, the latter a haunting trip of spiky sinewaves and sonic dissonance conjuring the green creatures of the Torriglia 1984 case. The disparate turns the record makes are all held together by expert vocoder and voice effects, Swedenhammar’s electronically treated vocals forever contorting to a high-pitched squeal or buzzing Dalek angst, often at the same time.

Subterranean and acrid, An Artifact of Insects is a fantastic psych-slurry of twisted electro and punk delinquency, the kinda music Nero would have fiddled while Rome burned were he an LSD soaked robot from the future.

Sixth June ‘Trust’

It’s been ten years since Sixth June’s debut LP Everytime, an exemplary work of darkwave synth-pop that thrust the band at the forefront of the minimal-synth resurgence alongside acts like Xeno & Oaklander, Automelodi and Daybed. Kindred spirits they all may be, Sixth June’s lush production and organic textures belied their cold-wave tag and have since continued to forge a unique sound unto their own, one that’s stirring, dramatic, and romantically European.

With third album Trust, the Belgrade duo continues much where they left off from 2017’s Virgo Rising, furthering their penchant for pared-down sonics that illicit deep emotional feeling from the simplest of synth washes and rich atmospheres. This sumptuous subtlety is established immediately on ‘In Dreams’, a rousing yet introspective album opener of wooden percussion and sax overlays which expertly demonstrate their ability to sculpt a wide traverse of mood with seemingly simple instrumentation. The mysterious ‘Negde Neko’ reaches even greater depths of aural purity, haunting keys and perhaps Lidija Andonov’s finest vocals yet recall the ethereal production of Nick Cave’s Ghosteen were it not for the hypnotic drum machine.

There’s plenty of familiar punch amid the austere restraint. ‘Oh Boy’ is classic Sixth June, an urgent pop number with that unmistakable cinematic evocation that grows and swells to a thrilling crescendo without becoming bloated or grandiose. Laslo Antal takes lead vocal duties (his baritone delivery first heard on side project Diesein) on the electro-pop title track, incorporating funky bass and irresistible guitar licks that mesh beautifully with crisp beats and soaring synth melodies before segueing to ‘Remind Me of the Time’, another example of their uncanny ability to marry the organic with the synthetic.

Ten years can dull any artist, but with Trust Sixth June show they are just as confident and inspired as they were a decade ago and still one of the leading figures in the synth scene.

Concentration ‘I’m Not What I Was’

Testosterone hangs in the air with such clammy fetor you taste it on your lips. America teetering on the edge of war with Iran over desperate displays of military virility, a victim of gang rape is convicted of ‘causing public mischief’ as the alleged attackers sing ”the Brit is a whore” after being released without charge, and the grim figures of femicide continue to climb in cartel-ravaged Mexico. The more masculinity is dissected and scrutinised whether through art, academia or activism, the greater the ferocity of the agents of patriarchy is in violently silencing any such discourse, and the world is more dangerous for it.

Building a reputation as the Bristolian vanguard of cutting edge underground music, sonic agitators Avon Terror Corps (an amalgamation of musical misfits including Schwet, Bokeh Versions, Bad Tracking among a host of others) have extended their slimy tentacles beyond the South West with new label subsidiary Global Terror Corps in a mission to deliver uncompromising, genre-defying acts from the dankest corners of planet Earth. The first release under this moniker is EP I’m Not What I Was by Aussie/German trio Concentration, a visceral powerhouse act of industrial smut comprised of artists Zachariah Kupferminc, Matt Sativa and Thrush twisting heads clean off with their live sets of hellish volatility.

The scraping electro-punk as heard on prior album Premature still grinds unmercifully but with greater ephemeral potency across four tracks of distilled fury. EP opener ‘Circumcision’ is a squealing vomit of naked runtish neuroticism impotently wailing against the rabbi’s knife amid crushing pummeling drums coming close to the power electronics of Whitehouse were it not for the steady hypnotic tempo of the percussion. The stream of consciousness lyrics revealing the layers of pent-up Jewish dysmorphia take terrifying turns, sexual humiliation congeals to trans-generational holocaust trauma with tortured confusion, yet Zupferminc’s nasal whine, references to ‘fucking Guardian articles’ and skewed klezmer pieces trigger a nervous hilarity to the nightmare.

Stuttering glitchy beats palpitate on ‘Jihadi Dole Bludger’, a cavernous momentum drives the track around points of eerie terse quiet and warped vocals, before the synth heavy ‘Spiderfuck’ pierces with Wax Trax! throb, arpeggios and drum machines creating a subtle groove beneath the noxious miasma. Last track ‘Dead Men Don’t Rape’ honours the scathing defiance against male entitlement and sludgy-grunge delivery of 7 Year Bitch’s original but adds further layers of haunted discord and collages of reverb drenched suffering.

The testosterone that clung stubbornly on your lips is replaced with blood, pre-cum, and testicular viscera. I’m Not What I Was is a horribly fascinating putrid dry-retch of disgust against poisonous machismo, as powerful as a sledgehammer to your face but revealing the deeply insecure and fearful heart of toxic masculinity with surgical precision.