Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Record store haul: April 29, 2013

Another trip to Used Kids; hopefully it won't be the last before I move out of walking distance to the store (even then, I'll probably still go now and again). What I thought at first was going to be a bust of a trip turned into one of my better hauls, even discounting the three Fugazi records I passed up. (In retrospect, I probably should've picked up Red Medicine, especially considering the regular 20%-off Monday sale, but oh well.)

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven (2×LP, $15)

Alright so maybe this was kind of a silly decision—I already have this on CD, after all—but as Godspeed is still one of my favorite bands and this copy is in practically mint condition, I couldn't resist. (Considering shipping, it was definitely cheaper than actually ordering a new one.) It's the kind of album that was definitely made for vinyl, anyway; once I get my system set up when I move it'll be one of the first ones to hit the needle.

Red House Painters – Songs for a Blue Guitar (CD, $5)

A year ago or so when I was at Used Kids, they played this album over the PA system and I quite enjoyed it (it might have helped that I could tell it was a band I already liked), so I was a bit surprised to see it one the "featured CDs" shelf. Anyway, for $5 you can't really pass it up, even if it's just a CD. It's no Down Colorful Hill, to be sure (they traded their slowcore sound for something a bit more folksy and even country-tinged in parts), but by no means a bad album and certainly worth getting.

Wir – The First Letter (cassette, $1)

I was a bit disappointed that I could only find one decent tape today, even though they'd spread out their collection on the floor (even the stuff usually tucked away on a shelf). At least I was very satisfied with what I got. Despite being down a member, this is actually pretty good as far as Wire goes—sure, it won't hold up to Chairs Missing or Pink Flag in most people's eyes (and it doesn't need to), but for later Wire I'm pretty impressed.

Agoraphobic Nosebleed / Apartment 213 – Domestic Powerviolence (12", $6)

While not my favorite part of the Agoraphobic Nosebleed catalog, I like 'em enough to have wanted to grab this one anyway. And besides, how can you pass up 320 gram yellow-orange splatter vinyl? You can't. Not even if the music is kinda weird and AnB's side isn't really even powerviolence.

The Locust – Locust (7", $3)

All these tracks appear on the Locust compilation I reviewed not too long ago, but it was neat to grab this anyway. It's their very first EP, which was release in a number of limited colors; mine is clear. Pretty raw early noisecore; niche stuff, to be sure, but cool regardless.

Sugar – Changes (12", $5)

I thought this was Copper Blue for a second and was disappointed that it wasn't; still, "Changes" is a fine song and the rest of the tracks on this maxi-single are about as good as Sugar's alternative power-pop gets. As far as the record itself goes, it's mastered really freakin' loud and doesn't take much advantage of its analog medium, which is a bit silly.

Shit and Shine – Bass Puppy (12", $3)

I'm not really sure why I got this. I haven't listened to Shit & Shine in years, and when I did, I didn't even like them. Maybe time has improved things for me, but I didn't find this release too terrible. It's some sort of power noise / brostep experimentation, with loads of distortion, power electronics, and heavy dub beats. It's one of those things that's kind of crappy, but in an endearing, artsy-underground way. Does that make it good? I dunno. (Also, limited to 500! Neato.)

Oh, and I got a free Used Kids sticker too! I don't have a picture, so you'll just have to use your imagination.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Topbunk – Springlake Pharmacy

November 28, 2012 • Ex Novo Collective

No matter how much (or little) you are into a particular genre (or, heck, music in general), at no point should you stop and think to yourself, "Well, I have a couple of records I really like; seems like a pretty good canon, might as well stop here." Because you'll always be wrong.

Case in point: Topbunk's Springlake Pharmacy, which I was expecting to be just another nondescript amateur emo album. Well, it is a bit amateur, but really, isn't that true of all truly good emo? The band's sound leans a bit toward the indie-garage rock sound of bands like Japandroids, with strained vocals, gritty production, and simple arrangements. Of course, it's the songwriting which skyrockets Topbunk near the top of my list; even with such simple melodies (which can be considered maybe a bit cliché at this point), the band pulls it off really well. And even though the singer's voice cracks often, guitars are sometimes sloppily played, etc., it all gives the EP that charm it needs to still succeed.

Okay so maybe it's a bit of a niche release, and a lot of what I'm saying really is just stuff that appeals to me personally (well, obviously). But this band shows a lot of promise if they can keep up the momentum, and I'm happy to have discovered yet another modern emo band I can enjoy as much as I do.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Satori Ray – Sow

April 8, 2013 • self-released

I'll be honest, I was a bit surprised to see that Satori Ray did pull it off and didn't disappear into the ether after their excellent first EP Выдох... (I missed a second one in 2011, somehow). Then again, with how Sow turned out, it's a case of one slight disappointment over another.

The band still seems very unsure of themselves style-wise; just like Выдох... was a trip through several styles of indie and post-rock, Sow treads the slow, droning ambient path on two of its tracks and leaves the third for a more traditional Godspeed-style post-rock jam. And there isn't really much else to say about it. I'm definitely not as thrilled with this release as I was with their first. Where Выдох... showed a lot of originality and promise, it feels like they've taken a step backward to something a bit safer and more generic. They don't do a bad job at it, to be sure, but I can't help but feel jaded with Sow.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Audiokonstrukte – Sending Echoes

No, the blog isn't dead. I've just been very busy (and often unmotivated) lately. Hopefully things are turning around.

November 19, 2012 • Cold Tear Records

I grabbed a couple albums from Cold Tear's Bandcamp page in an attempt to expand my electronic music palette—something I've been attempting to do for some time now. Though my target was more ambient minimalistic soundscapes à la Burial or something, I still enjoyed what I got.

Sending Echoes is a bit more "normal" than Burial, anyway, as normal as minimal techno gets: sweeping background synths, warm fuzzy background noises, lighter beats, and echoing pads holding it all in place. It's a nice aesthetic, at least on parts; while listening on headphones might not be the ideal environment there are certainly some neat samples and sounds going on, especially on tracks like "Continuum" with the samples and saxophone (I'm pretty sure it's not actually saxophone, but I don't know what it actually is), or the driving groove of "Lab 31 Am Wesser". It's great background music, for sure, and there are moments where the music really does grab my attention with an interesting twist or sound.

The album does have an issue with quality control and pacing, though; since the tracks were obviously thrown together without regard for flow (I mean, come on, they're in alphabetical order!) it's a bit of a weird listen if taken all at once. The first couple of tracks are some of the most uninteresting, giving the impression that the whole thing isn't worth hearing (which almost put me off completely); only in the second quarter of the album or so do things really start to pick up. With an hour's run time and thirteen tracks to choose from, at least a couple could easily have been cut.

Regardless, it's not a bad album by any means. It's probably not something I'd recommend to the uninitiated, as it has its problems and can be difficult to get into, but for what it is, it's pretty nice. Nothing spectacular, and I probably won't be spinning it much after today, but it was worth the couple of listens.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Appleseed Cast, Muscle Worship, Ease the Medic, The End of the Ocean

April 17, 2013 • Kobo Live, Columbus, Ohio

Just another Columbus rock show, nothing terribly spectacular. Although The Appleseed Cast is apparently a much more popular band than I was aware of. Not that that's a bad thing, but there's little to be said for an overcrowded, tiny venue like Kobo was. Still an enjoyable show, I suppose.

The End of the Ocean

A local post-rock band, the sort of emotive crescendocore in the vein of Explosions in the Sky with more compelling songwriting, better riffs, and a slightly heavier feel. One of those sets where nobody else in the audience really seemed to care (they were all asleep most of the whole show anyway), but I quite enjoyed them. Lots of energy for this sort of band, and fun to watch even for an instrumental band.
8Tiniest Keyboard Award (Although This Moment in Black History's Might Have Been Smaller, It's Hard to Say)

Ease the Medic

Another local band, this time with a more emo-meets-post-hardcore sound, a bit like Brand New with a poppy and emotive edge. While their songwriting and riffs were a bit generic, leaving not a whole lot to say about them, they definitely weren't bad. Outstanding bass work, as well, especially considering it was the bassist's first show with the band.
6I Honestly Can't Think of Any Single Award

Muscle Worship

I quite liked this act as well; they have a sound reminiscent of Bear vs. Shark (apparently I can only come up with comparisons to describe this whole show) with more of a garage rock/math rock feel to it. (As I'll never see BvS live, this is probably as good as I'll get.) Special props to the drummer, who was especially talented and had a really neat complex style. At this point, the show started to get too loud to the point where things were sounding muddy (especially the bass)—not sure if that was Kobo's fault or what—so I didn't enjoy them quite as much as I should have. Still a good set, though.
7Best Use of Pedal Loops Award

The Appleseed Cast

Apparently it's been a while since I listened to this band, because I definitely don't remember them being so much post-rock and so little midwest-emo. Not that they're bad, but there were definitely some bits that dragged on and on, especially the instrumental pieces (then again, I was really tired by this point). The older tracks (e.g. the encore ones that everyone seemed to know) definitely performed better live. Still, a pretty neat show; their music is obviously still quite nice. Clip (warning: shitty vertical video—I saw the person filming this, too, she obviously had no idea what she was doing)
7Most Useless Keyboard That They Only Used on Half of One Song Award

Friday, April 5, 2013

Floor, Thrones, Mockingbird

April 4, 2013 • Ace of Cups, Columbus, Ohio

I got a little too excited when I heard Floor had reunited after several years, as successor band Torche has long been a favorite for me and I saw them play last fall. It turns out it's not a temporary one-off thing, as they're apparently going to record a new album, but I'm glad I went to the show anyway, as it was definitely a good one.


These guys were surprisingly good. They played some typical stoner/doom, which was deceptively simple stuff at first, but turned into some surprisingly complex and intricate metal. They start with some pretty basic chunky riffs, but add some neat polyrhythms, odd time signatures, and some highly varying song structures. Special props to the drummer, who really knew what he was doing and was interesting to watch. It's probably a good thing that their stuff was mostly instrumental as the vocalist/guitarist didn't seem to know how to use a mic. Entire set
7Best Mutton Chops Award


Before the show started I only knew two things about Thrones—it's a one-man project, and he has a huge lumberjack beard—and one of those wasn't even true. But for a one-man project he put on an interesting show for sure. The setup was one bass guitar, one drum machine, and some effects pedals; as simple as that. The focal point was the basswork, and did he ever beat that bass harder than I've ever see anyone play—I don't think I've ever seen anyone manage to get pinch harmonics out of a bass. The use of effects was nice, resulting in a good huge heavy sound. The music itself wasn't the greatest, though, and for the most part I didn't really enjoy the songs at all. They were seemingly structureless and impossible to follow, just notes following each other with no context. I guess I was in the minority of people who didn't care for the songs, though. Entire set
5Most Awkward Moments When You Just Stand There as the Sampler Plays Award


An excellent show, as I had expected. If you didn't already know, it'd be hard to tell that Floor broke up around ten years ago, as their performance was spot-on. As with Torche, it was a pretty energetic show for such a doomy band and you could tell they were simply having fun together again. It was nice to hear a some old stuff I recognized mixed with some new material, which was about just as good as they've ever been (though they have always had the occasional boring tune that's just pounding that low note over and over). I hadn't actually listened to them in a while and their material was a bit more diverse than I remember—some Torche-style stoner, some doom, even a couple hardcore bits, surprisingly. All in all, a worthwhile show; I'm glad to see they're back and it's like nothing has changed. Entire Set
8Lowest Tuning Award

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Paysage d'Hiver – Das Tor

February 22, 2013 • Kunsthall Produktionen

I've never really been into Paysage d'Hiver and I don't think I've heard anything out of his considerable catalog (aside from sister band Darkspace) but this album has been making some waves lately, so I figured I'd give it a shot. Perhaps I wasn't prepared for the brutality to come, but it's a pretty intense album, the kind that engulfs the listener in freezing misery and noise. And that's a good thing.

This album takes the concept of "atmospheric black metal" and turns up the dials on both "atmospheric" and "black metal". It's one hell of a raw album. The music itself is absolutely furious, with unrelenting blastbeats, razor-sharp tremolo guitars, and some of the most anguished and wretched vocals I've heard in a long time. The production wraps everything into a thick, almost impenetrable wall of sound as the distortion on the guitar takes up most of the sonic headroom, with a little left over for the occasional synth strings in the background. It's a bit lo-fi, but not quite in the same way many early black metal recordings are lo-fi as the production isn't bad, just a bit hazy. And it's a hell of a loud album, too; some of the more intense parts actually made my ears hurt a bit (though that might be due to compression artifacts; hard to say).

The metal parts are bookended by long stretches of field recordings of howling winds—fitting to the aesthetic, I suppose, but can you say "cliché"? And the concept gets old really fast, especially when it's several minutes of what might as well be the same sample between every track.

As nice as the aesthetics are, though, I am having a hard time really getting into Das Tor. The songwriting isn't terribly interesting—not helped by the fact that the riffs are often really difficult to make out over all the fuzz—and there isn't a lot of variation to what's going on. Sure, it's supposed to be atmospheric, I get that it's one of those albums that is meant to be put on and kind of sit in the background. The mood is what's important. So it definitely has that going for it; I don't mind putting it on and focusing on something else. But focusing on the four huge fifteen-minutes-plus tracks is a tough job.

That said, I suppose the album succeeds at what it set out to do, and it's been growing on me as I've listened. A solid black metal album, but one that probably won't be for anyone. Bring a heavy coat; it's gonna be cold.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Midnight, Nekrofilth, Nukkehammer, Fumes

March 30, 2013 • Ace of Cups, Columbus, Ohio

A friend/coworker of mine invited me to this show, and who am I to turn down a show? It was definitely not one of the better ones I've been to lately (as I expected) but it wasn't bad either. I guess going with people helps (who'd've thought?). A couple people taped parts of the show; I posted links and there's more on their YouTube profiles.


Some local hardcore band. There's barely anything to say about them—they were on and off in seriously about five minutes; they played maybe three songs. I barely remember them even playing. I think it was okay, but obviously not fantastic. Clip
5Shortest Show Ever Award (of course)


These guys were also only sort-of okay. Crossover thrash sort of stuff, with a sludgy-doomy edge to it, if I recall correctly. Maybe I just didn't care for it that much, but it seemed like pretty generic stuff to me. Not to say it wasn't enjoyable; just another band I won't ever think about again. Clip
6Most Hipster Facial Hair Award


Basically, the same as the above band. Even right after seeing them I couldn't really tell the two apart, let alone as I'm writing this three days later. More hardcore/thrash sort of stuff, perhaps a bit more "traditional" and '80s-sounding. I liked them better than Nukkehammer but only marginally. Clip
6Best Hat of the Night Award


And finally the main event—possibly the least interesting musically of the four groups, but definitely the best set. They play old-school heavy metal, not my kind of stuff, but I don't think I've seen an audience get so riled up for a band since the Lamb of God show I went to years ago, which made it a lot more exciting. It's hard not to get excited for a band when everyone around you is so pumped and constantly pushing towards the stage. Like before, a band I'll probably never listen to again, but at least this show was kind of fun. Clip
7Silliest Masks Award