Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Oops - 5 Albums from 2012 I Missed

Despite the promises of the alchemist who sold me that bullshit elixir, I will never be perfect. I try my hardest to discover all the great music there is to hear every year, but inevitably most of it is bound to fall through the cracks. Here's my effort to compensate by adding 5 albums to the Top 20 list I posted at the end of last year.

1. Om - Advaitic Songs (Drag City)

Al Cisneros has kept himself busy after Sleep's demise by continuing to practice herbal mysticism in the form of OM. Formerly a heavy, droning bass-drum duo, lately he's been augmenting the instrumentation to create more of a Hindu vibe. Here they've hit the mark, and every tune is trance-inducing perfection. For the first time, the un-distorted bass feels appropriately modest instead of bland and boring.

2. Tim Hecker & Daniel Lopatin - Instrumental Tourist (Software)

Honestly, I've never cared much for either of these artists' solo works - Tim Hecker as himself, and Daniel Lopatin's releases under the Oneohtrix Point Never moniker. They felt overrated, not particularly memorable, or rather, so familiar that they gave me a mild, unremarkable sense of deja vu. Here, that's hardly the case. It's beautiful, strange, kaleidoscopic, and more deserving of the tired phrase "emotional roller coaster" than anything else that's been given that label. Hecker said in an interview that the collaboration process was spontaneous and lighthearted, but this feels dead serious and impeccably detailed.

3. Eagle Twin - The Feather Tipped the Serpent's Scale (Southern Lord)

Eagle Twin reminds me why I love doom metal so much. It's dark, fierce, unrepentantly macabre, yet there's a certain zest to the guitars that can't help but show how much sheer enjoyment Gentry Densley's getting out of it. There's enough bluesy hints to show that he grew up suckling from Tony Iommi's musical teat, so to speak. This album is fantastic, and I'll leave it at that.

4. Ash Borer - Cold Of Ages (Profound Lore)

GODDAMN is this album mind-blowing. I saw Ash Borer open for Wolves In The Throne Room in San Francisco, and they were so unrepentantly heavy and devoid of shoegaze that the otherwise chattery, ignorant audience had no choice but to shut up and listen. Here, they've added a touch of sophistication, though their riffs are somehow even faster and heavier than ever. I'm probably not the first to say this: Ash Borer is the best American black metal band around today.

5. Marielle V. Jakobsons - Glass Canyon (Students Of Decay)

I've missed several chances to see this Bay Area ambient musician live, and I can't help but worry that if I got the chance, it might ruin the mystique for me. I imagine her being some sort of Earth mother, bestowing us mere humans with a concept of celestial beauty that our minds are incapable of understanding. Simply gorgeous.

R.I.P. Cy Thoth

I was sad to hear the tragic news that Cy Thoth, legendary metal/drone DJ for Foothill College's KFJC 89.7 station, passed away on March 11th. I think I first heard Eagle Twin on his show, and I'll never forget the many times I freaked my friends out by tuning in to his show while we drove around Palo Alto. I hope he's schooling Satan on doom metal as I write this.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 20 of 2012: The Year of Collaborations, Compilations, and Masterpieces

Has this year been an unusually good one for music? It seems I’ve been discovering exponentially more new sounds, but it’s hard to say if that is simply due to my increasing dedication to seeking this stuff out, or if there really is more out there than before. All I know is that this has been an exceptionally good year for me, personally, as far as music is concerned—I saw Neil Young, Iron Maiden, The Melvins, Dinosaur Jr, Barn Owl, Godstomper, Oppressed Logic, Disciples Of Christ, Anthony Pirog, Jesse Sparhawk, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, Electric Shepherd, Glitter Wizard, OFF!—you get the idea. I should also mention the revival of KZSU’s Day Of Noise, a hallowed 24-hour LIVE avant-garde marathon which featured incredible performances by En, Megabats, The Lickets, Bill Orcutt, and many more. Last but not least, my own band Mausoleum played its first show in two years, sharing the (nonexistent) stage with great local (Maryland) acts such as Jonny Grave, Weed Warlock, Wall of Sleep, and Radamanthys.

I would like to express my utmost gratitude to all the people who made this possible, not just my close friends and collaborators but also anonymous unknown people I will never meet who are busy recording, composing, marketing, budgeting, pressings discs in a factory, you name it—thanks, y’all. Without further ado, here’s my list.

1. Janel & Anthony - Where Is Home (Cuneiform)
DC’s dynamic cello-guitar duo spans a wide range of sounds and moods and somehow subsumes it all under their own unique style. You can hear anything from abstract drone to lush jazz-folk to vibrant raga-rock, but Janel Leppin and Anthony Pirog make sure it’s all a cohesive experience. Incredible, unparalleled virtuosity and compositional candor.

 2. Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Psychedelic Pill (Reprise)
NEIL. He’s back. Oh wait, he was already back with the Horse earlier this year, but now they’ve brought us a sprawling double-album of original tunes. Not just any original tunes, mind you—their longest songs yet, epic blistering rock’n’roll sagas of anguish, nostalgia, and redemption. “Driftin’ Back” drifts along over nearly half an hour. “Walk Like A Giant” is just monolithic, monumental, musical apotheosis. It’ll destroy your world and rebuild it in a single explosive chord. “Rock and roll will never die” indeed.

 3. Swans - The Seer (Young God)
Speaking of magnum opuses, who expected Michael Gira to sum up his entire career in just one (again, massive) album, while developing his style more intriguingly than ever before? Well, he and Swans have done it. This album is thoughtful, dark, and disturbing in ways you could never imagine. And as far as epic album closers go, “The Apostate” is just about the best bang for your buck—possibly ever? You’re on a ladder to gooood….

 4. Fire! With Oren Ambarchi - In the Mouth - A Hand (Rune Grammofon)
Oren Ambarchi can do no wrong, it seems, but until this year it appeared that he only proved that to be the case in drone (see: Sunn O))) collaborations) or ambient minimalism (see: most of his solo albums). Then out of the blue he gets together with Norwegian free-jazz trio Fire!, and goddamn if the result is anything but bombastic. The album’s centerpiece, the scorching rapidfire rocker “He Sleeps In A Dream” is five times more intense than Ambarchi’s other recent foray into jazz-rock, the sprawling fusion epic “Knots” on his solo album Audience Of One.

 5. Evan Caminiti - Night Dust (Immune)
Does Jim Jarmusch need another awesome soundtrack anytime soon? I keep saying it, but Barn Owl’s more prolific half is the heir to the throne of Neil Young’s Dead Man soundtrack. But unlike Neil, Caminiti crafts immaculate compositions of astounding depth, combining subaquatic synth washes with sparse guitar moods. Utterly, bleakly beautiful. This isn’t even his only solo release of the year, but to my ear, it’s his most focused.

 6. Gunn-Truscinski Duo - Ocean Parkway (Three Lobed)
Another damn-near-perfect collaboration that the world needs to hear is the Gunn-Truscinski Duo, comprised of guitarist Steve Gunn and percussionist John Truscinski. Gunn’s raga-folk meanderings are subtle and nuanced, harnessing the melodic breadth of his open tunings for some entrancing results, while Truscinski’s assorted drums and cymbals create a hypnotic, throbbing pulse. The duo’s first LP Sand City led me to expect more plaintive, solemn fingerpickings the next time around; but as soon as the opening eponymous track starts us off, we know we’re in for something fresh and different. A bright jazz-rock motif emerges from the swirling raga haze, and soon we’re nodding our heads along to an infectious (dare-I-call-it-a) hook that serves as a strong foundation for Gunn’s modal improvisation. The rest of the album is as diverse as one could expect from a mere five songs, with modes ranging from quasi-Asian to semi-blues in flavor. You need this album.

7. Deep Listening Band - Great Howl At Town Haul (Important)

The great benefit of exploring experimental music is that you come across sounds that your wildest daydreams could never have conjured. This is the case par excellence on Deep Listening Band’s latest testament, a live recording made possible by a grant from UW. As far as “academic” avant-garde goes, this is more intriguing and accessible than almost any of it; Pauline Oliveros is a master of timbre, arranging her accordion musings to match up perfectly with bandmates Stuart Dempster and the late David Gamper. The real star of this recording, however, is the EIS (Expanded Instrument System), a feedback system devised by Oliveros that plays back loops of sound for the musicians on a special speaker array, effectively “spatializing” the temporality of the music.

8. Pretty Lightning - There Are Witches In The Woods (Fonal)
These psychedelic blues licks saunter slow and sticky out of the deep backwoods of… Germany? There is a bit of a Teutonic, Medieval feel to some of these tunes, but overall the guitar & drums duo plods along like a pair of Mississippi Delta sharecroppers at the end of a long, humid day. If they had a bass player, some of the riffs would qualify as straight-up Sabbath-worshipping doom metal, but there’s a dark garage-rock restraint keeping it all just short of metal—and I ain’t complainin’. Finnish label Fonal’s first foray outside of their homeland is a fruitful one indeed, and I can’t wait to hear more.

 9. Hisko Detria – Static Raw Power Kraut (self)
Speaking of Finland—er, Germany, I mean—oh, one of those—Hisko Detria was originally a German outfit, playing just as krautrock exploded in the early ‘70s. Led by notorious radical Andreas Baader, the band briefly recruited ten year-old Klaus Löpöti to play with them; they dissolved shortly thereafter, leaving zero recordings for posterity… But then Klaus, now living in Finland, decided to form his own band, in the spirit of krautrock’s heyday, and boom—Hisko Detria was reborn. As “retro” as they might seem from the title of this self-released demo, the music itself is tight and throbbing with new, unpredictable energy. The 7/8 pulse that emerges from the hazy drone in the opener “Nothing Happens” charges along unrepentantly, and though we get a variety of groove stylings, from “motorik” to balls-out blues-rock, the freewheelin’ spirit of these Finns remains genuine throughout. Also, you can download this demo for free!

10. Vertonen At Jennie Richie – Leaving Ocean For Land (Debacle)

Leaving Ocean for Land cover art
 This album is a dream. Seriously, listening to it is the closest any music has come to evoking the surreal experience of hypnagogic hallucinations. Over an uninterrupted 46 minutes, the single eponymous track squirms and writhes through various layers of your cortex, activating all sorts of bizarre assiciations with cavernous found-sound drone and industrial static sonatas.

 11. Insect Factory - Broadcast Rain (Zero Moon)

 Another free release y’all need to check out comes from my hometown of Silver Spring, MD. I thought it was just a forgotten suburb of DC full of snotty teenagers and amazing Ethiopian / Jamaican / Burmese / [etc.] food, but lately I’ve been turned on to the bubbling experimental scene in the area. Jeff Barsky crafts some lush, ethereal ambient with just a guitar and countless effects pedals. This is definitely Eno-esque in its minimalism, but a unique and humbling listening experience nonetheless. Download it!

 12. Samothrace - Reverence To Stone (20 Buck Spin)
Heavier than an African elephant doing the Charleston on your testicles, I wouldn’t be terribly upset if doom metal ceased to exist after this perfect slab of wax. We were all waiting to see just how epic their follow-up to the skullcrushing debut Life’s Trade would be, and these two songs deliver. ‘Nuff said.

 13. Panopticon – Kentucky (Pagan Flames)
Bluegrass and black metal? They are two of my favorite genres, but… No, it couldn’t happen—oh wait, it did, and Appalachian anarcho-environmentalist Austin Lunn didn’t just do it for shits and giggles. This is a cohesive concept album full of poignant resentment about the plight of Kentucky coal miners. We are told quite explicitly by sampled interviews and speeches that the coal mining industry’s exploitation of people and the land is Sauron-like in scope, but the bravery and tenacity or ordinary folk can make a difference. But this isn’t mere entertainment with political rhetoric thrown in—Lunn demands to know, accompanied by stomping hillbilly banjos, “Which Side Are You On?”

 14. Plante – Harvest (Fedora Corpse)

Plante Cover
 I can’t extol the virtues of this little record enough. An unassuming lime-green slab of vinyl contains four captivating post-rock / drone mini-epics, all crafted solely by guitar genius Andrew Plante. You may not agree with my use of the word “genius” here, but you must admit that it takes a special caliber of musical talent to craft something wholly unique within a form that can be so derivative. The riffs sound not unlike those we’ve heard on early Earth and Sunn O))) releases, with a bit of black metal tremolo thrown in, but their mood is unmistakably honest and melancholy, somehow intimately personal and enigmatic at the same time. This record is like that ex you just can’t get over, and you keep mulling over every moment, hoping to extract some hidden meaning from it—except this record is painless, bleak joy.

 15. Locrian & Cristoph Heemann – s/t (Handmade Birds)
     Okay, so I didn’t buy into the hype over Locrian back when it was being pushed by the Baltimore-based elitist snobs at Fan Death Records. (Seriously, they’re a great, dedicated label, but they need to get off their high horse and stop hating on DC…) So when I saw that they had collaborated with the German collage artist Christoph Heeman, I wasn’t expecting much, mostly because I’m ignorant and had never heard of Heeman. But goddamn is this some gorgeous, hauntingly gothic, subliminal soundtrack ambience. If Werner Herzog ever makes a film adaptation of Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony,” this match made in heaven should be in charge of the score.

 16. Terry Malts - Killing Time (Slumberland)
Perfect power pop. Ramones with razor blades. I don’t believe in true love, but make out with me while this album is playing and I might change my mind.

 17. Carlton Melton - Photos Of Photos (Agitated)
Iommi worship with just a touch of Tangerine Dream flavored kraut synth dreaminess. I imagine the genesis of this Bay Area band occurring like this: Carlton: say, man, you ever heard of this band Black Sabbath? Melton: duuuuuude, totally. Carlton: you wanna smoke some top-shelf medical ganj and listen to their 45s on 33? Melton: that sounds cool, but I also got these Orange amps just sitting around… Carlton: woah man, what a great coincidence—I’ve got this Moog gathering dust… Melton: duuuuude….. But of course, this is a five-piece line-up, and none of them are named Carlton or Melton as far as I know.

 18. Melvins - Freak Puke / The Bulls & The Bees EP (Ipecac / Scion AV)
The EP has two drummers. The album is the “Lite” lineup with just one drummer, but Trevor Dunn on bass. Why aren’t the Melvins the biggest band in the planet? Oh, and the EP is free.

 19. Zac Nelson - Improv(e) (Goldtimers)
  Zac Nelson has been a busy man lately, releasing a baffling psych-pop LP on Debacle Records this year to much acclaim. While that record merits much praise, I think it would be a crime to not give even more praise to this cassette quietly released by the boutique tape label Goldtimers, a label that never ceases to amaze. Here we get two sides with some untitled pieces that swim through uncharted layers of mystery. I’m a big fan of the mysterious experimental (dare-I-call-it-a) genre that I have dubbed “underwater jungle psych” that seems be found only on cassettes released in limited quantities. If I could compile a comprehensive guide to this style of weirdness, Zac Nelson would stand head-and-shoulders above competitors such as Plankton Wat or Sun Araw. This cassette is the soundtrack to some sort of secret Inca ritual that summons the gods of potatoes.

 20. Daniel Bachman - Seven Pines (Tompkins Square)

 I’ve had a soft spot for Appalachia ever since I spent a miserable rainy week backpacking in West Virginia when I was in seventh grade. Sure, I was soaking wet and exhausted and had to wipe my ass with wet leaves, but the grandeur of the autumn foliage in this area is incomparably beautiful. Daniel Bachman channels this beauty into his vibrant guitar playing, his fingers picking at his dreadnought like a young Jack Rose hopped up on Irish coffee. Stylistically, this isn’t as diverse as his previous effort “Oh Be Joyful” (reissued this year by Debacle – a must-have), in which we saw him exploring trance-like raga and old-timey bluegrass alike, but here we see him at the height of his compositional confidence. I can’t wait to hear what this guy does next.

 Honorable Mentions: For whatever reason, the following didn’t make the cut, but should have:

1. Rez Abbasi Trio – Continuous Beat 
Rez Abbasi is an incredibly talented jazz guitarist. This trio is tight, slick, and groovy—their rendition of Keith Jarrett’s “The Cure” is nothing short of spectacular. Unfortunately, that’s the only track I’ve heard, and I haven’t had a chance to purchase this album and listen to it in its entirety.

 2. Mark Bradley / No Mind Meditation – split cassette (Goldtimers) The Mark Bradley side of this tape is one of the most interesting things I’ve heard in my life. It ranges from blurred acid-techno to 8-bit jauntiness to swirling ambient synth with no regard for cohesion. Pure brilliance. Unfortunately, the No Mind Meditation feels a bit lacking, especially given how incredible their double-cassette release Molecular Clock was (pretty much the definition of “bubbly,” as it were.)

 3. various artists – Music For Restrooms (Sonic Circuits)
Music For Restrooms cover art
 I wasn’t sure about including compilations on this thing, but Sonic Circuits’ compilation is one of the best I’ve ever heard. We’ve got a collection of music culled from the soundtrack for the freakin’ bathroom at this year’s Sonic Circuits Festival (which fate has prevented me from attending ever since I heard about it).

4. Human Food – The First Magnum Opus of Human Food EP 
The First Magnum Opus of Human Food cover art
 I met this kid after he performed at the Pyramid Atlantic recently, and I was beyond impressed by his set. Not only was it some of the most intriguing noise music I’ve witnessed recently, the kid is a high schooler. I think. I mean, he looks about that age, and I asked him, “how does it feel to be the coolest kid in your age group?”—to which he replied, poignancy veiled by sarcasm, “everyone my age is like, ‘man, I thought you said you made music?” You should download his album so he can get the praise he deserves—far more than so many dime-a-dozen noise amateurs twice his age.

5. The Funkees - Dancing Time: The Best of Eastern Nigeria's Afro Rock Exponents 1973-1977

Nigeria's answer to Funkadelic, made during a time when they most certainly were not one nation under a groove. This is pretty much the most crucial collection of stuff I had never heard of before.

P.S. I'll be in Santiago, Chile for the first three months of next year. I won't be doing a radio show, but you can be damn sure that I'll still be seeking out new music anywhere I can find it.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Gunn-Truscinski Duo - Ocean Parkway

(Three Lobed Recordings, 2012)

                The second LP from the collaborative duo of Steve Gunn and John Truscinski is simply mesmerizing. It sounds like much more than a guitarist and percussionist jamming together; you’d think there was a full band performing intricately composed sonatas just because of the perfect—oh, sure, I’ll use that repugnant word—synergy that the two have achieved. It’s not just cohesion, but a transcendental unity that permeates their sound, the feeling that they aren’t just interacting with their instruments and trading ideas, but rather expressing different iterations of the same idea.
                The duo’s first LP Sand City, also released by Three Lobed, was a relatively improvised study in open tunings. Gunn explored the modal possibilities opened to him by tuning his guitar in some sort of drop-D style. (From the sounds of it, his tuning is likely far removed from standard tuning, but to my untrained ear, the specifics will remain a mystery. Update: I recently emailed Steve Gunn to inquire about this, and he informed me that most of the songs are in some variation of DADGAD tuning.) Truscinski locked right into a groove with him, and the full potential of the melodic motifs became vividly apparent. On Ocean Parkway, the first few minutes of the opening titular track have you thinking that it’s roughly more of the same—vaguely raga-esque wanderings, lush and serene, very loose and subdued… but suddenly the song becomes incredibly lucid. Truscinski begins tapping out a light 6/8 groove, and Gunn’s electric guitar joins in with a clear, uplifting major-key jazz-rock melody that sounds as if the two had suddenly been jolted awake and were driven by a singular purpose.
                In terms of this vibrant, driving force permeating the spirit of the music, the rest of the songs are on par with the opener, though that 10-minute epic is the most resounding statement of it. Much of the album would lead us to suspect that the Duo were taking more of a blues-rock approach—“Country Fair Getaway” on Side B is especially bluesy. Aside from the swampy pentatonic licks jiving  in the upbeat stomping tempo, Gunn’s virtuosity makes the track just as dreamy and haunting as the rest. “Banh Mi Ringtones” rather lightheartedly fuses the blues influence with some cheery Oriental harmonies. It prompted me to describe the track in my KZSU review as sounding like Chet Atkins and Link Wray taking psychedelic drugs. But drugs are completely unnecessary for enjoying this album; all you need is a sincere appreciation for two people genuinely communicating their souls through their instruments. Their melodies are complex, but it's really that simple.
                As much as they draw on the distinctly American influences of the Takoma school of folk (e.g. Fahey, et al) the Duo are never shy about playing with an exotic flair. I am reminded as much of John Fahey, Mississippi John Hurt, and Stephen Stills as I am of raga guitar in the vein of Sir Richard Bishop. The only acoustic track “Don’t Lean On Door” is more in this style, very reminiscent of the first LP, as is the closing track, “Minetta River.” The end result is an album that feels very warm and familiar, while its evocative power is truly unique, and when the needle hits the grooves, you will find yourself experiencing something quite indescribable and new.

Get it from the label here:

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Awesome Local Band vol. 1: Electric Shepherd

We in the Bay Area are pretty damn spoiled when it comes to psychedelic rock. It seems like you can't take more than two steps without tripping (pun intended) over some new outfit with sweet, searing riffs. Electric Shepherd are recent favorites of mine that I've been playing on my show just about every week since I first heard them. They are also super nice guys that tried to sneak me into their 21+ show. The attempt was unsuccessful, but I'm eternally grateful for that, as well as their generosity and support of KZSU.

Electric Shepherd – Electric Shepherd (self-released)

This local psych-rock trio (though they have since become a four-piece) released their debut album on their own, and also played at KZSU on our Wednesday Night Live show. Their unique blend of Blue Cheer-esque summery groove, intricate jazzy psychedelia, and dreamy-yet-tangible songwriting makes this a winner for me. I can’t stop listening to their tune “Down The River” but all the tracks are fantastic.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top 10 of 2011, according to me

Well, it's been quite the eventful year... I think focusing on the year's triumphs in music is the only way I can forget everything else that will make the first decades of this millenium live on in infamy. If thinking about this year makes you sick to your stomach as well, I suggest checking these out.

1. Pentagram – Last Rites (Metal Blade)

The triumphant return of the DMV’s doom metal heroes. Bobby Liebling sounds more impassioned and maniacal than ever, and his voice sends shivers through your spine and seems to herald the end of the world, while also announcing new beginnings. Victor Griffin’s guitar tone is thick, muscular, simply unparalleled.

2. Lumerians - Transmalinnia (Knitting Factory)

You put the needle down on Side A to hear the smokin', near-perfect groove of the first jam, "Burning Mirrors" and you say to yourself, "okay, this is some pretty great rock 'n' roll." But is that all they are? Soon enough, however, you'll be at a loss for words to describe the sound. On paper, Lumerians might just be a psych-rock band from Oakland, but the swirling organ, jam-rock percussion, and dissonant bliss will have you thinking they could also be spiritual gurus guiding you on their own unique path to Zen enlightenment. Trust me, you will fall in love with the oblique dreamy melodies that float through the transcendental echoes.
P.S. I have no clue why the youtube user chose to use that cartoon for the video, but I linked to it because "Atlanta Brook" is hands down my favorite song on the record.

3. SubRosa – No Help for the Mighty Ones (Profound Lore)

If Salt Lake City doomsters SubRosa had chosen to merely be a four-piece stoner metal band with just guitar, bass, and drums, they would probably still be on my top 10. The guitar tone—I mean, damn! It’s heavy in a way that redefines heaviness itself when it blends seamlessly with the fuzzy sludge of the bass. However, they’ve also added violin to create a unique chamber-metal sound that expresses utter despair and melancholy more vividly than most heavy metal is capable of doing. Lead vocalist Kim Pack is joined by guitarist Sarah Pendleton and violinist Rebecca Vernon , creating lush harmonies that sound as if the songs were being sung by a mother who cradles you in her arms while the world decays around you.

4. Richard Pinhas & Merzbow – Rhizome (Cuneiform)

“Beautiful” usually isn’t a word that can be used to describe a recording involving Japan’s noise icon Masami Akita a.k.a. Merzbow. (I’d say he’s as synonymous with noise as Miles Davis is to jazz.) However, his latest collaboration with French guitarist Richard Pinhas is just that—entrancing, scintillating beauty; rippling waves of feedback, hovering tones, juxtaposed with jarring swirls of electronic insanity. It’s intelligent experimental music, without being pedantically cerebral. I would even consider this a good gateway to avant-garde/ambient/drone/whatever (“bladerunnercore” as we call it at the zoo) for the uninitiated listener.
Check it out, buy it:

5. Mind As Prison – Maryland Grindcore EP (Blastcat / TLAL)

GRINDCORE. The word provokes one of three reactions—“what the hell is that?” “I’ve heard that crusty-looking kid with bellicose band t-shirts mention it…” or, “FUCK YES I LOVE GRINDCORE!” Punk rock and heavy metal have had a complicated and incestuous relationship over the years, spawning many hybrids. Grindcore is the latest and by far the fastest, most brutal (…yes, most cathartic) bastard child of punk ‘n’ metal. The 7” 45rpm format is perfect for it, because it’s often quite a challenge to hold a listener’s attention span with so many blastbeats and lightspeed riffing. Some stubborn old-school grinders insist that no one has done the full-length format better than Napalm Death’s second LP From Enslavement To Obliteration. In any case, the debut 7” from Maryland’s Mind as Prison, featuring present and former members of Magrudergrind, A Warm Gun, and Lotus Fucker, is a relentless assault on the ears. The songs are short—crisp and straight the point. Guitar tone: sludgy, full, excellent low-end. There’s slight hints of 90s death metal that reminds me of Defecation, an early Napalm Death side-project. Otherwise, it reminds me of all sorts of excellent grindcore standard-bearers from this century, including Insect Warfare, Chainsaw to the Face, and Unholy Grave.

6. The Lickets – Here (on Earth) (Int’l Corp)

Local favorites—sweet, friendly people; and they’ve performed at KZSU numerous times. Each record they’ve released so far is a flawless opus of beautiful sound—I almost hesitate to classify it as music rather than just sound, because it’s a sonic experience that defies semantic categories. Gorgeous washes of harp, guitar, synth, and bowed strings swirl around in ethereal echoes. Crepuscular bliss. Yes.
Listen to the whole dang thing and buy it:

7. Premonition 13 – 13 (Volcom)

WINO! A resounding triumph for Scott “Wino” Weinrich, famed singer and/or guitarist of various influential doom metal acts (The Obsessed, Saint Vitus, Spirit Caravan, The Hidden Hand, etc). It’s refreshing to hear him constantly expanding his musical boundaries in the same year that he returns to his roots, so to speak, by also reuniting with Saint Vitus and singing their crowd favorites at festivals and shows all over the world. However, his new band shows the next step in his unique take on a doom-metal/punk/blues hybrid that we can simply call heavy music. There are some progressive aspects in the songs, particularly the longer ones that explore droning, Sabbath-metal stylings, while other songs are quite drastically different—“Deranged Rock ‘n’ Roller” is the most notable example, a sleazy bar-rock anthem that would sound perfect with some Motorhead and PBR.

8. Brain Fruit – 1.1 (Debacle)

Wonderfully retro Kraut-techno from Seattle. It’s often hard to believe that this is from 2011—it totally reminds me of discovering Kraftwerk’s Trans Europe Express in my dad’s record collection. In his review for KZSU, Your Imaginary Friend used the term “hip-shakin’” at least twice, and I can see why. While none of these songs will get you up off your chair and bustin’ a move (never mind that I personally never feel compelled to dance at all, regardless of the music), there’s a subtle groove in the beats, on the songs that do have beats. The ambient songs, however, don’t feel like interludes; each track flows seamlessly into the next, forming a cohesive, delicious whole.
Listen, purchase:

9. Tinariwen – Tassili (Anti)

North African blues that would make John Lee Hooker, Ali Farka Touré, and Missisippi John Hurt proud. This is their first record to feature guest musicians (including—gasp!—some dude singing lyrics in English), but they retain their authentic, heartfelt sound. These nomads chant over sparse acoustic riffs in a soulful style that evokes the barren, tumultuous Sahara that they call home.

10. Burmese – Lun Yurn (Ugexplode)

Bay Area noisecore that is absolutely ballistic and insane in the best way possible. The two drummers and two bassists are just bashing and screaming away like there’s no tomorrow, but they do it with a relentless determination that is persuasive enough to make you think there really is no tomorrow. Also, the bonus track on the CD is a full 45 minutes of noise-rock mania. Awesome.

...And we're back! (sort of, except I never really left-- whatever)

Hey folks,

this is the blog for Catharsis, my radio show on KZSU Stanford 90.1FM. I started it as "Overkill Radio", a strictly heavy metal/punk show during my freshman year. However, as my interests in music broadcasting soon expanded into jazz, avant-garde, bluegrass, etc., the aesthetic confines of the word "Overkill" became a problem for me. I'm beginning winter quarter of my sophomore year with a new show name, but the same dedication to bringing you new and classic music from around the world that will blow your mind, or at least shatter your skull. Keep your eyes on this blog for reviews, musings, and rants from yours truly, your host D. Cannibal.

Merry Crassmas and happy new year!