‘Kill the kid that stole your neighbourhood, not the kid that stole your bike’ is stamped on the cover of last years single and EP teaser We Don’t Care (It Ain’t Safe), avoiding any ambiguity to the target of their attack. To the leeches of gentrification and the agents of community erosion: Bob Vylan sees you.
Bob Vylan have been busy since 2017s Vylan, playing Brixton Academy as part of Afropunk London 2018, releasing a plethora of material on their Soundcloud, and being banned by Soho’s The Crobar, the punk-grime hydra shows no sign of mercy. New EP Dread is eight nail bombs of blistering vitriol, furthering their hatred of bland conformity and the idle complicity of oppression.
Us boppers are introduced to the duo by what sounds like the laconic endorsement from the omniscient DJ in The Warriors, before an exorcism of gnawing demons take place on the trenchant thrasher ‘Down’. Bobby’s expert MC skills are on display in the toxic trip ‘Join Us’, foggy keys sting against gelid beats detailing the alienation that festers when chasing the expectations of a society which has rejected you. ‘What the fuck is going on!?’ Bobby screams on interlude ‘Storm In’, articulating a sentiment of half the western world in the age of MAGA, FLA and right-wing ascendancy, backed by percussive ferocity from drummer and partner in crime Bobb13 Vylan. Punk sludge oozes against Ministry vocals on the toxic ‘Run Up’, then metastasises into ‘Grime Made Me Do It’, a curse against the desperation that grows from the austerity Petri dish. Desperation turns to violence in the bleak ‘Die Slow’, then the final primal scream against the beige, slow, death creep of gentrification in the aforementioned ‘We Don’t Care (It Ain’t Safe)’, a savage and cutting diatribe of middle class vermin and its craft beer/coffee house necrosis.
The fire in Bob Vylan burns unabated, and is captured once again in an EP of searing volatility and socio-political bite. If Vylan was the aiming of the cross hairs, Dread is the pull of the trigger.
Kinshasa, the capital of Democratic Republic of the Congo, is where the party is right now. Protest and post-punk soundtrack the streets of Lingwala, recalling the no-wave iconoclasm from the ruins of late 70s New York.
Spearheading the new Congolese agit-punk movement is KOKOKO!, fronted by ‘Zagué’ force of nature Makara Bianko and production from French synth explorer débruit. Backed by DIY musicians from the Ngwaka neighbourhood, political tension and urban decay are channeled into a twisted concoction of off-kilter rhythms, found-junk instrumentation and gritty grooves.
Liboso, their first release with Transgressive Records, is another slice of psych-funk with fire in it’s belly. Opener ‘Blvd Lumumba’ is a slow creeper, an auditory finger beckoning you into their world, enticing you hypnotically against an urban aural landscape of clanging pots and broken glass. The fattest synth bass you’ve ever heard warbles aggressively on ‘Azo Toke’, cymbal claps and Arabic flavoured guitar picking builds to a minimalist and primal frenzy. ESG funk sets the tone on ‘Affaire A Mbongo’, a percussive stomper holding up Bianko’s powerful vocals. Kinshasa partner in crime Rachel Nyangombe features on ‘L.O.V.E’ (first heard on 2017’s Tokoliana), synths squeak and squeal against a fuzzy thud of Nyangombe’s thumb on a live cable, with mysterious garbled voices instilling a touch of menace. Finale ‘Longola Ye Kupe’ ends on a punch of pure kinetics, a driving storm forcing you to dance into a fever.
Tearing down the old order needn’t be nihilistic. Art and music is a formidable asset in the revolutionaries arsenal, and with Liboso, KOKOKO! have delivered an EP that’s so exciting and full of ingenuity, it makes your soul dance, and challenges the consensus deeper than mere didactics ever could.
Singer and film-maker Audrey Campbell strikes an imposing presence in the video for ‘These Days’, off the bands second EP Seize. Advancing to a rusted out car, tiki-torch in hand, amid a collage of Soul Train footage, burning infernos, BLM marches, KKK rallies, and alt-right hatred, this is a band confronting the political chaos and ‘white’ hot anger that is Trump’s America head on. Pleasure Venom are here out of sheer fucking necessity.
After two EP’s and a string of high energy live shows, Pleasure Venom are setting the Austin music scene on fire, and their new self-titled release shows no sign of slowing down. Opener ‘Hive’ is a no prisoners punk rock assault, shining a spotlight on fascistic homogeneity, be it brown shirts or red caps. ‘Deth’ hits that sweet spot between punk and garage rock, Campbells powerhouse vocals bursting through the growing cacophony. Ominous piano teases on ‘I Can’t Find my Black Lipstick’, before breaking into jerky, Wilko Johnson style guitar chops, displaying a dexterity and eclecticism keeping the band from being one-note. Their post-punk inclinations are at the forefront on ‘Gunt’, jagged guitar jabs scrape against dub-lite bass, and EP closer ‘Eddy’ has a Nirvana ‘Dive’ riff with theremin like keys percolating amid the thrash, punctuated with the ivory waltz heard on ‘I Can’t Find my Black Lipstick’ returning like a haunted, recurring motif.
Pleasure Venom is an unapologetic assault on musical and political conservatism, and a grenade thrown in the face of the institutes and forces of oppression and white-supremacy.
Elvis didn’t mean shit to Chuck D, and Bob Vylan don’t give a fuck about your middle class, liberal homogeneity.
Bob Vylan are a punk/grime/rap hydra from London fronted by Bobby Vylan and backed by drummer Bobb13 Vylan, with a growing reputation for tearing apart all who come to their wild and raucous live shows. Last years EP Vylan, issued by Ghost Theatre, sees the band taking punk DIY to its logical conclusion, confidently handling all recording, producing and mixing. There is to be no compromise in their pursuit of volatility.
Opener ‘Church of Vylan’ is a mission statement, a call to arms against the state and its forces that seek to divide, possessed voices beckon us like The Evil Dead, before sanctuary arrives with thrashing guitar and merciless drum pounding. Your heads still spinning when eerie interlude ‘Dirt Nap’ creeps in, then the acid rain drizzle of ‘Dying Hell’ forces you to wake up to the illusions of your perceived free will and happiness, a grime rap number with corrosive synths and 808 drums that bleed all over you. ‘Wake Up’ is straight up D.C hardcore and up there with the best of ’em, before closing with a reprise of ‘Dirt Nap’, a 49 second pummeler ending the EP on a note of pure chaos.
Vylan is a kerosene soaked Molotov cocktail, seizing you out of your complacency and forces you to witness their scathing document of divided and gentrified Britain.