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I’ve been meaning to review some of the music I get for some time. I do a fair amount of album reviews for EU Jacksonville, but for the most part, it’s all stuff I receive promos and press releases for. In other words, it’s stuff that seeks me out not the other way around. I love doing it and I even get paid a little for it. But by extension of the sheer volume of music I am exposed to, my musical tastes have become more obscure and I’ve been needing an outlet with which to delve into the murky, muddled waters of the weirder, noisier, heavier stuff that I really enjoy. No telling if or how long I’ll keep this up but I’m doing it now and hopefully you’ll discover something you can enjoy as well.

The catalyst for this post is the incredible stack of music I received today from my favorite distributor of underground music. I swore not to reveal my source as most of what they offer is extremely limited so I’ll only tell you what I ordered. The title should be familiar to my fellow Tweeters.

Todd – Big Ripper CD (Riot Season)

I’ve been waiting for this album to come in for some time. The album cover is incredibly deceiving. The happy cartoon lumberjack completely betrays the noisy, overdriven, crusty rock to be found on the disc. Drugged up and fucked up, this is certainly not for everyone but will no doubt appease fans of Brainbombs, No Balls and Hey Collosus. Also, the sleeve features all the bandmembers posing with bikes. Score! I purchased this on CD before the vinyl came out. Oh well.

V/A – The Stranglers: Chapter 1 2XCD (Choking Hazard Records)

After hearing but a segment from the first track by Atavist, I was hooked! The first disc of this 2CD set contains tracks from Atavist, Moloch, Austrasian Goat and The Whorehouse Massacre. Atavist opens the disc innocuously enough with almost five minutes of light, melodic noodling over some fuzz before one of the creepiest samples I’ve ever heard segues into some frighteningly dark, sludgy blackened doom. The song is “20:11” and is exactly that, twenty minutes and eleven seconds of pure fear! Moloch enters the fray with three songs of crusty down-tempo hardcore in the vein of Eyehategod, just listen to that squeal that opens “Epidemic”. Along with the other two bands mentioned, these guys hail from the UK. Good to know something other than brit-pop is coming out of that sceptered isle! The Austrasian Goat is a one-man (French man), sludgy, black metal outfit whose music sets the tone for you darkest brood session. The name comes from an all-but-forgotten land between Germany and France who resisted the incursion of Christianity into the 18th century, maintaining the vestiges of pagan ritual all the while. Pretay, pretay, pretay… brutal! The Whorehouse Massacre, another one-piece (from Canada, this time) closes out disc one. The programmed drums that open “The Feed” sound a little too unnatural for my taste and there are some weird, almost awkward transitions that caught me off guard but still some pretty cool stuff with crazy fuzzed-out vocals.
The second disc begins with Stasis, the first American band on the compliation. The harsh, oppressive winter of the state of Maine no doubt lends this band their heaviness. Feast of Sins are yet another UK band who also offer up three songs of supremely dark and sludgy doom. But again, sampled drums. It’s the only thing that bothers me about the genre. Call it self-preservation if you must. Ghost Empire have a drummer (yay!) and also hail from the unlikely location of Tuscay. Seems strange that such brutal music could come from such a beautiful place, but the blackened soul knows no peace regardless of location. Their songs are less black and more slow, heavy hardcore. Finally, we have Welter In Thy Blood – straight up bleak, ambient, blackened doom that will plunge you into the depths of misanthropy and self-loathing. Keep any and all sharp objects away when listening to this almost fifteen minute-long dirge. For real!

Dengue Fever Presents: Electric Cambodia CD (Minky Records)

Hopefully you aren’t too depressed after that last review, but if you need a pick-me-up, this record should do it. Fourteen “rare gems from Cambodia’s past” is what you’ll find on this compilation. During the 60’s and 70’s, Cambodia enjoyed a brief period of independence before the Khmer Rouge savagely tried to eradicate any and all signs of modernity in the country. This album features a collection of hand-picked recordings from those brighter days and offers a glimpse into what could have been. Some of the vocals are so amazing! You can really hear the idiosyncrasies of the language. If you appreciate garage pop and/or world music, you will love this album!

Javelina – Beasts Among Sheep CD (Translation Loss)

Okay, enough of that – MORE METAL! Powerful stuff out of Philadelphia that resembles a modern, growlier Iron Maiden. Classic guitar riffs and chugging rhythm with gnarly hardcore vocals and the occasional black shriek. Very, very cool.

Night Control – Life Control CD ()
Not sure why I bought this other than it carried a high recommendation. The CD case offers little to no information on what lies within, no track listing or liner notes of any kind. What it is, is lo-fi pop, a little weird, but tighter than most bedroom projects these days. It also features more traditional instrumentation than what has been put out lately and it’s all the better for it. It’s kind of hard to describe despite its simplicity. Druggy reverbed vocals, lots of effects and some well-used and slightly fucked up samples all make for an awesome listening experience. There are definitely some similarities to other lo-fi bands but Night Control seems to manipulate their sonic offerings a bit more than their contemporaries resulting in something at once familiar and psychedelic at the same time.

Eat Skull – Jerusalem Mall 7″ (Woodsist)

The disturbing album artwork of this 45 may have you second-guessing your purchase. I have a strong stomach but even I was a little put off by the grainy photograph of a dead child on the cover and the back cover’s track listing carved into a forearm. But the music is nothing like that. Side A features a noisy garage punk number while the B side contains a much poppier Black Lips-esque, almost surfy song followed by an even more blown-out chaotic rumble. I ❤ 7 inches because they're cheap, usually pretty rare, and offer a taste of bands you might not have heard before. Would I buy an entire Eat Skull album given the opportunity? Honestly, not from this but I could see how a live show might change my mind.

Bonny Billy and the Picket Line – Funtown Comedown LP (Sea Note)

If you don’t already love Bonnie “Prince” Billy, you need to go ahead and crawl out from under that rock and stop being such a jerk. But don’t start here. Under the moniker of simply Bonny Billy, he is joined by the Picket Line for this live, vinyl exclusive. Recorded during the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, this record finds our bearded pal Will Oldham immersing himself completely in his bluegrass side. Of course you will find banjo, mandolin, upright bass and guitar right up front with Oldham’s vocals. So many people are delving into folk and roots music but Oldham is actually from Kentucky and knows what he’s doing to be sure. What’s funny although I had heard much about Bonnie “Prince” Billy, I never really listened to him until I heard him on a split 7″ with Young Widows of all people. The fact that such a serious, heavy band felt the need to split with something like BPB is remarkable and a testament to his song-writing abilities. This album evokes a certain nostalgia within me. The cover and interior photo collage reminds me of some of my dad’s old Texas country records. True Americana!

Alter – Dusk-Dawn LP (Wolvserpent)

What first strikes you about this records is the packaging, and I LOVE packaging! The hand-printed tri-fold sleeve comes numbered (limited to 300 copies) with gorgeous silver on black. The first side is a sprawling, haunting bit of chanted funeral doom, chamber doom as it’s been called. It opens with dissonant, out-of-tune guitar for a few minutes before the thick, wavy distortion kicks in but remains slow and creepy without any explosive wall of sound stuff. Side 2 offers up some chanting but not quite as black as the album imagery would lead you to believe. Still rather scary. Following that is some straight ambience. Everything is really stripped-down and subdued on this album from the brains behind Pussygutt. There’s hardly any drums beside a few cymbal crashes but I almost prefer that to fake drums. Bottom line though is, you really have to be in the mood to listen to this all the way through.

Vibracathedral Orchestra – Joka Baya LP (VHF)

For all the programmable and non-drumming on some of the previous albums, this one at least starts off on the right foot with a nice African drumming intro. Then some vibraphone and twinkling chimey stuff starts happening that devolves into some psychedelic guitar jamming. Then a little wild flute and shaker number takes over bringing a very tribal beat with a classical guitar melody that sounds like it could be either Middle Eastern or Medieval followed by some noisy fucked-up drone. And that’s just side one. Side two brings more drone in the form of something vaguely resembling a sitar with some added space-droning to go with it. Add clanging cymbals, some woodblock, a little bass from somewhere and it just builds and rides out. Super-pleased with the use of traditional percussion and freaked out electronics on this record. I wasn’t sure just what to expect but with a name like Vibracathedral Orchestra I felt assured it would be something unique and probably awesome. This album is one of three LPs that although separate, are made to go together. I picked up this first one to see if I would be into snatching the next two. I think I will.

That’s kind of a lot of stuff to pour through in just one day. Next time I’ll hopefully have a smaller stack and be able to devote a little more time and thought into each one. Until then…