2020

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.

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.

Bob Vylan ‘We Live Here’

“If I wanna fucking rush you, you’ll get rushed” confesses rapper and frontman Bob Vylan on the acidic ‘England’s Ending’. To navigate life with a spotless moral record is a privilege rarely afforded to the disenfranchised and oppressed, moral scruples no currency to those surviving a world of austerity assault and community erosion. For the working class who has no stake in society and marginalised communities cast further aside by the rabid demands of white-centric capital, what reason is there to adhere to the principles dictated by your enemy?

This burning seethe boiling across both sides of the Atlantic has fueled the London duo Bob Vylan. A punk/rap/grime hydra whose politically-charged assault has seen them winning support slots in America and being included in NME’s ‘100 New Essential Artists for 2020‘, have dropped second album We Live Here entirely independently and amid a backdrop of turmoil, protest, and a world teetering on the brink. Switching targets from Dread‘s savagery of gentrification to the death throes of English exceptionalism, the roses, lions and blackletter font which adorns the cover point to an ugly nation mired with imperial hangover, diminishing status and eating itself in its nativist confusion.

We Live Here blasts through its near 18 minutes with ephemeral potency, every riff, beat, and lyric urgent and essential. The title track is an explosive punk blast of rage against the racist rot festering under the St. George’s flag. Opening with the resentful quip of a neighbour nostalgic of the time before “you lot got here”, Bobb13 Vylan’s steady drums pace along with Bobby’s savage revelations of the racial abuse experienced in childhood and dissecting prejudice masquerading as ‘patriotism’. Fever 333‘s Jason Aalon Butler lends his vocal skills to the groove metal fierce of ‘Pulled Pork’, an indignant scream against every greasy, cop intoxicated with their power and excited by their licensed violence. Slyly referencing Body Count’s Cop Killer, Vylan’s correction of Ice-T’s original lyric to “n****r killer killer” is a powerful condemnation of every minority murdered by law enforcement, be it Tottenham or Minnesota. Vylan’s love of MDC rears its head on pummeler ‘Save Yourself’, ferocious percussion and DC style hardcore defiantly imploring you to believe in yourself in a world that perhaps doesn’t believe in you.

A courageous vulnerability characterises this record on a greater level than prior records. The intro track is a naked stream-of-consciousness, an exorcism of trauma, transgressions, and demons that gnaw and haunt. It’s starkly intimate, almost voyeuristic, Vylan dropping names of those that racially abused him and friends tragically lost, you can hear pain bristling underneath his flow. If the title track is arguably the thematic centerpiece of the album, the intro is its tortured soul. ‘Northern Line’ reaches for a more universal study of anguish, the terrible introspective battle one can have with commercial parasites, tabloid hate-mongering and commuter paranoia in a despondent capital city, like ‘Going Underground’ for the Brexit generation. Perhaps the album’s most significant moment is also its simplest, a final track of pure silence which forces you to both reflect on the beating you’ve just taken but also how you may have complacently been part of the problem.

As the world grows coarser and more pitiless, the fight against the stagnant and corrupt system combats with greater resolve and determination. We Live Here articulates with furious insight the daily war against white supremacy many have no choice but to fight and dares to lift the lid on the misguided, blue-collar army who swears allegiance to a flag that has done nothing for them.

We Live Here

Armitage Shanks ‘Casual Employment’

Does any other brand have greater ubiquity in the British cultural landscape than Armitage Shanks? Usually lost under a film of days old piss, green lime build-up and a sprinkling of old pubes for good measure, its flourish logo has an unrivalled corporate authority and near-monopoly on our most base needs. It’s fitting too. The capitalist pretence that market reward is there for the taking should you have sufficient tenacity and drive is a cruel joke to every overworked and underpaid worker expected to give maximum labour for minimal wage. We all feel it, that the world is broken and geared to serve billionaire wealth hoarders, and that society is slowly swirling down a toilet of creeping fascism, environmental catastrophe and grotesque wealth disparity. If Tory, austerity Britain has a sponsor, it’d be the U.K.’s leading bog manufacturer.

“I’d have a hard time caring on minimum wage so I certainly won’t do it for free!” yelps Maisie Gilchrist on the rallying ‘I’m Not Here For Small Talk (I’m Here For A Latte)’. Armed with Marxist resolve, Gen Z defiance and a cheap synthesizer, Aussie ‘Trotpop’ duo Armitage Shanks scores their yearning for class war with spoken-word style poetry and minimalist electronics attacking the miasma of neoliberal stagnation we’re all forced to participate in. The title of their debut tape Casual Employment states firmly where their solidarity lies and whose in the firing line of their cutting satire.

The bite that lurks within the observational jest across the 7 tracks (final track ‘School Boycott’ a bonus for fee-paying supporters) stings with familiarity. The choking busyness of the modern age, liberal hypocrisy, exploitative bosses, customer meltdowns, and the yearning for some basic fucking infrastructure all deeply felt and experienced symptoms of the failing social experiment which Gilchrist and fellow keyboardist Angus Clarke explore succinctly and savagely. Their lyrical attack is at their most hilarious and pugnacious on the piquant ‘I Hate Every Vegan Except Myself’, tearing apart the feeble futility of ‘green capitalism’ aided by Sleaford Mods style languid bass and hazy keys, Gilchrist’s sneering opine “if only you cared about refugees as much as vegan cheese” dripping with acidic accuracy. The aforementioned ‘I’m Not Here For Small Talk…’ is a paean to every stressed hospitality employee navigating a quagmire of low-pay, ‘low-skill’ attitudes and nearing explosion, the rising blood pressure spurred by punchy, tight drum machines.

Occasional detours into surreal eccentricity provide different avenues to explore their progressive musings. The politics of space and the questionable judgments of what is ‘problematic’ within it are explored on the contemplative ‘The Pigeon Song’, muffled, buoyant synths jump and dart against an account of a pigeon’s extermination due to the fickle criteria of ‘public nuisance’. Their catchiest track, ‘Bug Beat 02’, is also their most puzzling: a curious declaration of affection for ones pet stick insects atop cool drum breaks and a simple yet infectious synth melody. These beguiling diversions create moments of evocations that stimulate the cerebral side while still retaining their sharp humour.

Novara Media‘s Ash Sarkar lamented the ‘dour cultishness and pomposity’ that plagued the public perception of the left for years, and that the road to communism needn’t be dominated by Soviet-style authoritarianism and grey edifices of bureaucracy, but that liberating people from the material and psychological shackles of rabid capitalism can and should be ‘joyful and exuberant’. Armitage Shanks’s Casual Employment tape demonstrates this perfectly: that Marxist rigour and class struggle can be colourful, freeing, and most importantly, fun.

Sluggish Shady ‘Volume Ø “Siberian Dungeon Rap Mix” (Tape Rip)’

Legend has it that a team of Russian engineers led by ‘Mr. Azakov’ drilled a borehole over 8 miles deep in the Siberian wasteland and breaking through to an unforeseen cavity. Lowering a heat resistant microphone into the newly dug crater revealed audio of a terrifying wail of screams and howls that reverberated around the abyss with chilling intensity. Man’s supposed reach into the literal bowels of Hell has been an enduring piece of internet folklore since the nineties, even being attested on the American Christian Trinity Broadcasting Network as proof of the eternal inferno which awaits the sinners who have yet to ‘see the light’.

Hip hop, Scandinavian black metal and medieval aesthetic have been crushed together by dark forces creating the murky world of dungeon rap, a lo-fi swamp of muffled beats and fetid gangsta whine clotted with sludgy flow. Acts like AKABXS, Chemm Doggy Dogg and the many doom DJs and occultist MCs which make up the Manchester Natural Sciences label have pioneered the dungeon rap sound: dank and putrid corpses of old West Coast G-Funk tracks left to rot in the Compton sun.

From L.A. to the icy desolation of Siberia comes Sluggish Shady. As the name suggests, a potent mixture of languorous breaks and a possible affinity with Eminem’s darker alter-ego hangs over his smoggy contribution to the dungeon rap underworld. Allegedly recorded in 1999, Shady’s new album Volume Ø “Siberian Dungeon Rap Mix” (Tape Rip) takes thematic guidance from the local ‘well to hell’ legends to conjure an inspired dirge of demonic possession in da hood.

The seven tracks across the tape all prowl down the back streets of broken needles and used rubbers like the gangs hunting for blood sport in Rockstar’s controversial video-game nasty Manhunt. An earnest warning from a concerned televangelist or Pentecostal pastor introduces Volume Ø…, the Siberian mouth of hell opens to a brief foray in the martial pomp of dungeon synth mired with tape hiss and analogue decrepitude. Second track ‘Dungeon Selection’ stalks along like a seedy curb crawler with acidic menace, foggy synths and stretched vocals bleed together like rancid horrorcore. The ubiquity of police sirens and gunshots as heard on Old School N.W.A is given a nod on the eerie ‘Tha Devil Sees Us’, expert drum machines snap and groove around creepy keys with the ramblings of a hypeman taken over by evil forces at its centre. A shade of Afrika Bambaataa electro percolates against gloomy vocal choirs on the morass of ‘Falling Castle’ before ending the album with the final descent into hell: stinging wind and evil incantations twisting with Wurlitzer organs into a whirling crescendo of torment.

Deftly balancing the arcane introspection of dungeon synth with a sound understanding of hip hop production, Sluggish Shady proves as much as any of his peers the unique way in which the genre’s best examples simultaneously has it’s cold, death grip in the streets of a world spiralling into poverty and violence, and the spectral residue of our corrupted forefathers that fester in the ground as the underworld hits, deals, and shoots-up on top of it.

I Know I’m An Alien ‘Chair of Cola’

It’s not just the dwindling economic opportunity, climate inaction and the greatest disparity of wealth in human history which makes late-stage capitalism the unrelenting black hole of hope it most definitely is. It’s the fucking mediocrity man. The inexorable descent into a hellscape of focus-grouped music and recycled film franchises wrung of every shred of creative potential and risk by the necrotic death grip of market research. Wading through a toxic miasma of a town infested with property developers, you pass the 17th Tesco Metro before enduring another pointless meeting in a pointless job in a boardroom of office middle-manager types so fucking vanilla and tepid you have an out of body experience, your soul screaming at you with condemnation: “THERE HAS TO BE A WAY OUT!!!” The only way out appears to be the one open window of the fifth floor you’re on. Just one jump, and it’s over…

“We live in a world where there is more and more information and less and less meaning,” wrote Jean Baudrillard in his seminal Simulacra and Simulation. The nagging feeling that culture and society is dictated by capital instead of ideas is a recurring theme in the string of releases by I Know I’m An Alien. An art-punk outfit from London with a keen socialist rigour in their synthpunk mischief, the dadaist trio have been taking a flamethrower to the bloated vacuum of neoliberalism with a fizzy mix of Residents surrealism and Devo subversion while sporting oversized, paper collage masks. Changing pace from their prior avant-pop offerings, new record Chair of Cola introduces Lumpy Gravy style tape collage experimentation to explore the modern day alienation of the overworked and underpaid.

Chair of Cola is the aural noise that lurks in the psyche of every confused millennial. A congealed slop of shit Saturday morning cartoons, the same fucking Boston song aggressively sold to you by a boring rock ‘heritage industry’, PlayStation start-up jingles, daytime commercial slime, smartphone interruptions, warbling 90s Disney VHS’s cynically vying for your nostalgia. A cudgel of media noise breaking your face and brutally reminding you that you ain’t no generation, you’re a target demographic. Is it any wonder that the opening track is called ‘Breathing Challenge’, cos we’re fucking suffocating.

“No apologies to the artists whose songs we ruined!” the band exclaim gleefully on their Instagram. Their puckish sense of fun keeps the album from being a draining endurance for the listener. Sudden goofy moments, like the Nokia Gran Vals tune chiming in or the sped-up desecration of Dolly Parten’s Jolene, tells you that their elongated, alien tongue is firmly in the cheek. The occasional detour into eerie lo-fi makes intriguing diversions from the otherwise busy record. ‘Wedding of the Anything’ is a weathered and muffled chiller of white noise and analogue tape decay, and the finale ‘Let’s Make a Living in Music!’ is the last word on biting self-deprecation: a track consisting of nearly two minutes of laughter. With the arts sector and creative industries facing great uncertainty in the face of Covid-19, the guffawing mirth stings with acidity.

When Alan Clarke began to tackle the issue of paramilitary violence in Northern Ireland for his 1989 BBC short Elephant, he decided that instead of some trite, moralistic posturing or po-faced lecture on the enormity of the subject, he instead simply showed the violence, nothing more, nothing less, appealing to the gut and our visceral senses over intellectual pondering. Chair of Cola similarly presents to us a soundtrack to the troubled navigation of a world geared by untrammelled free-market dogma and shows us exactly how it is: mad, unrelenting, and seemingly impervious.

Horrid Red ‘Radiant Life’

Listening to anyone of Horrid Red’s releases across their decade long existence strikes you with a rarity in music: a clash of disparate styles that don’t mesh yet is to the band’s strength. This confliction of tangles and knots, of psychedelic washes, synth-pop, Neue Deutsche Welle clangour, and indie jangle scraping together with some friction is a unique and consistent trait of the Horrid Red mood.

An offshoot of the more raucous Teenage Panzerkorps, Edmund Xavier and German frontman Bunker Wolf (Glenn Donaldson and Karsten Scholl respectively) enlisted the help of Burial Hex‘s Clay Ruby and together have been creating a post-punk sound that’s rich, decadent, and deeply exotic. Their latest LP Radiant Life is another cerebral beast, 12 tracks that are both hardy yet introspective.

An electric balancing act of dreamy textures and weighty industrial heft permeates throughout the record. The urgent ‘Omitted Prophets’ is an infectious and rousing mix of acoustic strumming with twisting keys and strings that lift with its buoyant ear for pop hooks. This sense of drama arises frequently, especially on the first track ‘Brazen Altars’ with its deep piano melody and driving bass, and the delicate psych splashes on ‘Fountains of Clouds’ have a touch of Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me romance.

The moments of brooding bite are just as exciting. The smouldering ‘Still Suffering’ has echoes of Nick Cave’s Tender Prey, cavernous chants and a beguiling mesh of Eastern Asian scales with bluesy twang all evoke a dusky, ethereal stir. Hazy wanders of reverb and muffled drum machines envelop and fog like Martin Dupont on the title track, exemplifying Xavier’s creative guitar technique, while the tight ‘Divine Names’ sees Wolf adopt a growling, demonic snarl in its chorus atop an otherwise sunny and upbeat pop number. It shouldn’t work, yet feels wholly necessary when listening for the first or 100th time.

The creative fire that fuels Horrid Red still burns white hot even after a decade. Radiant Life is another glorious addition to a heady body of work which manages to excavate meditative soothe within violent discord.

Macula Dog ‘Breezy’

Witnessing any one of New York visual artist Ben Mendelewicz‘s music videos and record covers is like two alien fingers plunged into your eyeballs, twisting around several times to ensure maximum brain jabbing before extending its slimy, elongated tongue to lick the grey matter and ocular fluid off its many digits. Garish, gooey, gross, Mendelewicz’s warped style found itself right at home among the kindred mutants that make up the weird and brilliant Haord Records.

Not content just corrupting the visual arts, Mendelewicz teamed up with Mark Matthews in 2015 to unleash Macula Dog, a congealed splatter of performance art, fucked-up electronics and eye-popping multi-media theatrics. Like some little bastard brother of The Residents kept locked in the attic for being even weirder than they, Macula Dog have steadily released a string of aggressively strange albums and E.P.s which established the Macula Dog sound: cartoonish donk and kids game show candy saturated with vocoder gunge and synth ooze. Jumping from Haord Records to Wharf Cat Records and inviting Paul D. Millar (from Aerial Pink’s band) to lend his engineering chops, Macula Dog has dared to inject a little pop into their latest offering, Breezy.

Recorded completely live to a 16 track tape, Breezy‘s four pieces are satisfyingly blemished and imperfect, each warble and atonal convulse captured organically. E.P. opener ‘Popping Hot Balloons’ is an urgent flurry of an 8-bit percussion and disjointed keyboards that rub, stretch, and squeak against each other like chewing flat balloons. Vocal slime gunks on the baffling title track, an expert display of keen sequencing skills that play out in a jumbled fashion, each bass throb teetering on the edge of collapsing into a mess of bleeps and screeches. The sonic stretching, inflation, and pulling-apart continue on the taut ‘Red’s Corvette’ before the animated ‘Lissajous’ (named after Jules Antoine Lissajous’s famous curve equation) bring the E.P. to a sludgy resolve of swamped synth gurgles and brittle vocal croaks curdling together with pleasing melodies and psych guitar licks under the electronic soup.

Alien, gelatinous, absurd, Macula Dog’s latest conjuring Breezy is another beguiling slice of strange which hasn’t been compromised by their embrace of pop sensibilities and outside production.