REVIEWS

WEB-REVIEWS
Published  August 2017

ANTIGRAVITY-AUGUST-2017-REVIEW-MUSIC-AR15AR-15
DOGS OF WAR
(C RAGE!)
Whiskey-swilling, shirtless, and full of banter during their live shows, this trio’s latest cassette, Dogs of War, recalls influential ‘80s/ early ‘90s NYC hardcore such as Cro-Mags and Sheer Terror with a touch of Cause for Alarm-era Agnostic Front. With cover artwork depicting a battered NOPD oinker resembling Ed Gein, “Tombs” kicks off the album with driving hardcore eventually leading into a mid-tempo breakdown, finished by a Jeff Hanneman-inspired dive bomb guitar solo. Tracks “HAHAHA” and “Kill” commence with a chunky bass intro followed by vibes that more closely resemble melodic crust punk than crossover hardcore. The thrashing tune “Destruction” showcases Ian Hennessey’s expeditious drumming, exuding finesse and speed. “Martial Law/Locked and Loaded” is at first a mid-tempo basher with intermittent, tribal tom-tom fills and guitar slides before catapulting into a hard-charging NYC ‘80s hardcore groove. “Shock Therapy” concludes the recording with solid ‘80s crossover thrash, fusing hints of D.R.I. and S.O.D. At a time when the NOLA hardcore scene is in somewhat of a lull—perhaps due to summer’s stupor—let us see if AR-15 can inject some energy. —Dan McCoy

ANTIGRAVITY-AUGUST-2017-REVIEW-MUSIC-SEXTILEBROKEN SOCIAL SCENE
HUG OF THUNDER
(ARTS & CRAFTS)
Hug of Thunder was unexpected in the best way possible. The first album released in seven years by early 2000s iconic indie band Broken Social Scene, it’s bombastic and lush—a welcome addition to their famed discography. After the record opens with an ambient, instrumental track called “Sol Luna,” Hug of Thunder quickly unfolds into a dense, big-band pastiche of opposed, layered instrumentals which can only be described as urgent. Of course, this sound is familiar for tried-and-true fans, as BSS have always been a boisterous group with a tendency to experiment. Hug of Thunder, like many of their previous albums, is at its best when they allow their sound to go off script. On the track “Stay Happy” (featuring new band member Ariel Engle), the album transforms itself. The group’s well-known soft, intimate acoustic sound pierces through the thick fog of booming orchestral instrumentation like a beam of hope. Despite its seemingly overwhelming nature, listening to Hug of Thunder is a worthwhile journey—like walking through a dreamscape you didn’t even realize you’d been waiting for. —Maeve Holler

Guerilla Toss

GUERILLA TOSS
GT ULTRA
(DFA)
If there’s one permutation of post-punk that hasn’t been dragged up and over-trafficked in the 21st century indie scene, it would have to be avant-funk. That said, prolific NYC art-rock band Guerilla Toss has been a serious torchbearer since 2010 and GT Ultra offers this with much more accessibility. Guerilla Toss has always recalled Lizzy Mercier Descloux, 23 Skidoo, Black Eyes, and Melt-Banana. And they still do, but Ultra’s subduing of the more out-there noise elements and amplification of hyperactive, video game-esque synth melodies renders the band more in the image of the anxious cosmopolitanism of Brian Eno’s works with Devo and David Byrne. This sleeker version of Guerilla Toss’s still-freaky dance-punk evokes a populist apex of avant-funk while contrasting sharply with their much rawer LP Gay Disco. Intermediary LP Eraser Stargazer may have heralded GT Ultra, which stands apart as not only the band’s first arguably pop album—a very catchy one at that—but also the most thematically approachable. Whereas previous releases offered propellant psychedelic chaos, it’s somewhat ironic that GT Ultra (with a cover by LSD archivist Mark McCloud and titular reference to federal LSD experiments) offers less esotericism with instead an upbeat eccentricity that focuses on science fiction and situationism. Previous Guerilla Toss material was engaging, but GT Ultra is truly catchy. Fans of preceding albums may find the polish of GT Ultra arresting, but those previously put off or unfamiliar—especially fans of Priests, LCD Soundsystem, and Palm—may now have found their weirdo dance album for the summer! —Ben Miotke

Hexis

HEXIS
TANDO ASHANTI
(ALERTA ANTIFASCISTA/ HALO OF FLIES)
One morning three years ago, I woke up with a new playlist on my Spotify account titled “scariest album of all time” and it was just Danish black metal/hardcore band Hexis’ XI. I then recalled sitting in bed intoxicated, frozen from the first note in a Kevin McCallister gawp until, a few songs later, I thought I might be overreacting, made the playlist for sober evaluation, and passed out immediately. I wasn’t overreacting! Hexis is terrifying and so is their most recent release, Tando Ashanti. French black metal has long been distinguished by its deep allegiances to melancholy, philosophical verbiage, and progressive experimentations. But it’s nearly impossible to enjoy the subgenre’s dizzyingly bleak cacophonies without coming up against its pervasive ultra-nationalism. Celeste pierced through this in 2005 with a Converge-esque fusion of French black metal, sludge, and post-hardcore that, without sparing any philosophy, resisted its Napoleonic heritages and parented Hexis as a more stridently bilious offspring. Tando, accordingly thrashes with its every fiber. While many extreme metal practitioners value a supernatural tirelessness, Hexis arrives as bare and human—relatable and lowly by comparison, letting listeners see that cold, blackened hardcore wear their conjurers down too, when summoned as passionately as they should be. Tando demonstrates this by acutely easing its abrasion as the album progresses, which may let some metalheads down. Fans of crafted, tenebrous metal/hardcore like Celeste, Converge, and Thou will likely find Hexis, especially on Tando, a powerful musical intoxicant. —Ben Miotke

Impalers

IMPALERS
CELLAR DWELLER
(540 / STATIC SHOCK)
On Impalers’ latest full-length, the gust of hot air exploding from the vocalist at the dawn of the opening track, “Secret Beach,” unleashes an ensuing torrential blitz of maniacal punk anguish. This is exemplary of the merciless attack Impalers have come to embody since their 2010 formation. Arguably their fiercest album to date, Impalers (from Austin, Texas) continue to creatively meld Anti Cimex Scandinavian Jawbreaker-stylized, whirlwind guitar solos with Yeti-stomping pogo punk to reach new heights of aggression. No niceties are to be found with this band—only seething turmoil and brute force. In contrast to their 2014 d-beat odyssey Psychedelic Snutskallar—which predicated itself on a minimal number of riffs and progressions that made for a wall-of-sound endurance race—Cellar Dweller electrocutes the listener with shorter, sharper shocks of tension-and-more-tension d-beat hardcore, drenched in distortion. The guitar-fueled onslaught culminates on the conclusion track, “Cellar Dweller III,” with the band consuming everything in its path, akin to the most malignant of black holes, vomiting forth abysmal darkness until the entire instrumental morass swirls into a washed-out oblivion. With Cellar Dweller, Impalers continue their cutting-edge rampage, standing atop the current North American hardcore game. —Dan McCoy

Jay SomJAY SOM
EVERYBODY WORKS
(POLYVINYL)
Everybody Works is the sophomore album for Oakland musician Melina Duterte, under the project name Jay Som. With precision, Duterte has written, played, recorded, and produced every sound on the album. With Everybody Works, she continues to take the listener through a grunge-induced and tonally rhythmic smorgasbord. The record opens with “Lipstick Stains,” the track a flurry of notes inverting through soft, painful vocals. Momentum builds on songs like “The Bus Song” and “Remain,” which channel hazy ‘80s and ‘90s aesthetics. However, “One More Time, Please” sticks out as the song that takes the most chances. The drums fall on odd beats with minimal snare hits as the ride cymbal keeps almost clockwork time. Empty space is explored delicately throughout the end of the record in songs like “(Bedhead)” and “For Light,” with their longing vocals and minimal chord movement. Every step taken is small and nervous, while “Take It” and “Everybody Works” deliver powerful juxtapositions that call for a head bob. Jay Som’s ability to inject nuance into something as antiquated as grunge makes her records feel novel. It’s hard to think that there is something new to be discovered in the ‘90s revival, but Duterte seems to have unearthed something worth delivering. —Robert Landry

Marika hckman

MARIKA HACKMAN
I’M NOT YOUR MAN
(SUB POP)
New to the Sub Pop roster, London’s Marika Hackman has made a splash embracing a full band line-up à la The Big Moon on this sophomore long player. Previously, she released a 2013 debut EP, Free Covers, which was a collection of non-original material. In the same year, she put out two more EPs entitled That Iron Taste and Sugar Blind, which consisted of original songs produced by Alt-J’s Charlie Andrew. Lyrically, there are no bones about what some of the tracks on this record discuss. Hackman makes it clear that these are physical, sexual, and personal characters and stories—whether they are fact or fiction. Even some titles contain innuendo, as with the song “My Lover Cindy,” which is a nod to a character on The L Word series. Playfully disobedient and mischievous, Hackman is provocative in presenting a nuanced personality, one part Lothario and another part insecure and child-like. Comparisons to some of the ‘90s biggest and best groups may be a coincidence, but probably not. Radiohead riffs open the record and Nirvana’s watery “grunginess” sets the tone on “Gina’s World.” The spaghetti western vibe on “Apple Tree” is a welcomed highlight because of its sparse and unique tone—complete with whip cracks, horns, and whistling that seem to roll over a remote, sunset landscape. Ultimately, this is a bold step in a new direction for Hackman and her collaborators: out of the dreamy soundscapes of the past and into a world a bit more tactile and temporal. —Emily Elhaj

Martial Canterel

MARTIAL CANTEREL
NAVIGATIONS VOLUME I-III
(MEDICAL)
Surveying contemporary minimal wave, the genre usually ends up thrilling or boring, due to faithfulness to its technical and conceptual minimalism. Too many tidily programmed pop songs or too many passages of exploratory chaos can undo an album that falls under a subgenre that is defined by both, but with no prescribed ratio. Sean McBride—best known for Martial Canterel and minimal dance pop duo Xeno & Oaklander—has released many exceptional contemporary minimal wave albums. Medical Records now offers three LPs worth of his early, primordial productions that manage an exemplary balance. His Austerton LP is almost balanced, but may be too predictable; and although a worthy modern darkwave album, Gyors, Lassú is relatively maximal. Navigations—originating as a single volume in 2013—practically walks one through modern minimal wave aesthetics and variations. It compels, as with most minimal wave, by recalling Kraftwerk and early, austere works by new wave icons Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Depeche Mode, and especially New Order. Fans of locals Sharks’ Teeth and the Stranger Things score will almost certainly appreciate this release. Navigations Volumes I-III may present as more comprehensive than approachable, but McBride’s work is essential to the subgenre. These early recordings may well be enough to refresh existing minimal wave fans or galvanize beginners. —Ben Miotke

PudgePUDGE
THE ART OF DANCING
(SELF-RELEASED)
Pudge was a prolific, challenging, and sometimes charming local band that united with audiences through chaotic, hooky post-hardcore and refreshing left-field tracks—that is, until their recent dissolution. They had started touring somewhat rigorously and attracted attention beyond New Orleans from Mike Watt and Post-Trash, but ultimately little can stop young men from being undone by their own intensity, indulgence, and indiscretion. So, complementing 2016’s LP Bad Lands and follow-up EP Backstabber, the now-defunct Pudge offers a final statement: The Art of Dancing. This record seems to suggest what might have happened if the Butthole Surfers had been inspired by Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure to make a rock opera. While stylistically triangulating almost every band featured in Our Band Could Be Your Life with whispers of Captain Beefheart’s alt-country, The ArtOf Dancing (comprised of 24 tracks) unobtrusively ushers listeners from a concert, to a bar, to space, to Washington D.C., a carnival, and a few other implicit and explicit locales. This scene-setting might seem like reaching were it not tastefully explained by light background noise, brief skits, and vocalist Jake Silvas’ disillusioned exhortations. Overall, The Art of Dancing—an epic dedicated to all authenticity in punk and all leisure in ‘70s stadium rock—could easily have been a breakout album for Pudge, and perhaps even a flashpoint for a new, more manic generation of cowpunk. Instead, it’s a fascinating epitaph. —Ben Miotke

ANTIGRAVITY-AUGUST-2017-REVIEW-MUSIC-SEXTILE

SEXTILE
ALBEIT LIVING
(FELTE)
Felte first appeared on my radar for releasing the second LP by Ritual Howls, who are one of the most innovative, underrated post-punk acts operating today. The label has come through again in releasing Albeit Living, a rare sort of album that is simultaneously truly dark, while also being suited to the summer. A huge factor in the summer feel of Albeit is Sextile’s alignment with icons of their Los Angeles home’s dark punk history, particularly grim surf-punks Agent Orange and original deathrockers Christian Death. Sextile augment this with British post-punk energy, such as hypnotic, pounding rhythms recalling the Jesus and Mary Chain, Throbbing Gristle-inflected noise, and Nitzer Ebb-style EBM synth melodies. Pragmatic rhythm forms grim grooves, guitar crashes, and laps like waves; electronics and effects flicker and glow aggressively; and dispirited vocals echo from some veiled canopy amid this cultish beach party under the quickly-setting sun. Goth, surf, and their lovechild deathrock are often intentionally and inescapably cheesy, but, as their labelmates Ritual Howls have done with country-western, goth, and industrial, Sextile have successfully distilled the authenticity from their sources to offer evocative and deeply atmospheric post-punk uncommonly capable of satisfying dark music purists. Furthermore, they’ve made it very danceable. Fans of Body of Light, Drab Majesty, and Bauhaus (and any other Daniel Ash work), here’s an album to keep you a goth for all seasons… and provide a taste of what to expect from their 8/25 show at Gasa Gasa. —Ben Miotke

ANTIGRAVITY-AUGUST-2017-REVIEW-MUSIC-TOMB-OF-NICK-CAGETHE TOMB OF NICK CAGE
THE PHARAOH OF NEW ORLEANS
(SELF-RELEASED)
First off, I have to say that it’s about time someone used their band to publicize Nick Cage’s wacky death pyramid, awaiting him at Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1. Secondly, it’s also about time I ran into a local band aspiring to such a perfect synthesis of dark/goth/horror themes. Tomb of Nick Cage conserves the goth mainstream’s standards, recalling Skeletal Family and Xmal Deutschland, as well as Alice Cooper, the various vehicles of Glenn Danzig and ‘80s Ramones. Pulling ToNiC’s work even further toward the latter is their upfront dedication to the motifs of horror B-movies. This theme pervades Pharaoh of New Orleans and is immediately manifest in song titles such as “Tub of Blood,” “Nightbreed,” and “Wickerman.” Most tracks on the album are bar scene-friendly hard rock that avail listeners to singalongs and dancing, ranging from sullen head bobs to hair-whipping headbanging. That said, Pharaoh really does play more to a bar crowd; goth purists will likely find its playful spookiness less deathrock and more shock rock. One track that comes close to bridging the gap is the curveball closing track “R’lyeh,” a pretty conventional goth/new wave dance track. Tomb of Nick Cage may not be pushing beyond the limits of goth’s ‘80s heyday, but they have quite deftly mined that period for a most accessible and—most importantly—fun pastiche. —Ben Miotke

ANTIGRAVITY-AUGUST-2017-REVIEW-MUSIC-THOUGHTS-OF-IONESCOTHOUGHTS OF IONESCO
SKAR CYMBALS
(CORPSE FLOWER)
When bands like Converge, Botch, and The Dillinger Escape Plan toured Michigan in the late ‘90s, they opened for Thoughts of Ionesco—a band of teenagers articulating a Swans-meets-free jazz metallic post-hardcore sound who were most infamous for their vulgar, drug-fueled chaos. The band’s torrid nature cycled in Suicide Machines and Alkaline Trio drummer Derek Grant, but undid the band after three years. Other members re- appeared in indie rock band The Holy Fire, but had remained in relative obscurity until 2014 when vocalist/guitarist Sean Madigan Hoen released a powerful autobiography. Songs Only You Know illuminated how Thoughts were so fucked up, how that couldn’t be sustained, and how Hoen went from deeply traumatized, berserk teen frontman to writing professor at Columbia (now Rutgers). He promoted the book with original Thoughts drummer Brian Repa and reunited the band this year with original bassist Nathan Miller, Grant, and former DEP guitarist Jeff Tuttle. Outside of Detroit, this four song EP, Skar Cymbals, is the sole manifestation of this and it feels like a perfect progression for the group. They are just as heavy, weird, chaotic, pessimistic, and primal 20 years later. They begin Skar with a critique of Trump and the alt-right and end with a sprawling 13 minute art-core overture. I would have been interested to see the band overhaul their rigs like their mathcore peers have, but ultimately Skars drags very little, if at all. Maybe Thoughts of Ionesco are so special to me because I grew up just a mile from where Hoen did; but even beyond that, as a serious fan of out-there metal/post-hardcore, I can confidently say that Skar Cymbals is worth a listen. —Ben Miotke

ANTIGRAVITY-AUGUST-2017-REVIEW-MUSIC-TORO-Y-MOITORO Y MOI
BOO BOO
(CARPARK)
Boo Boo feels like déjà vu. The sixth record from prolific chillwave artist Toro y Moi (Chaz Bundick), the tracks on this record masterfully combine elements from many of his earlier releases, and throughout the record, you can hear the spooky, pulsing, minimalistic beats with funky undertones that Bundick is best known for. But this time, Bundick has expanded his sound—many of the songs on this album, such as “Mona Lisa,” embody driving, airy ‘80s synth-pop. Each song builds on the one before it to create a uniquely nostalgic landscape of contrasting sound. Further, the songs on Boo Boo are embedded with Bundick’s signature muffled lyrical overlays, and the lines are largely confessional—the artist touches on issues relating to ego, trust, and relationships. On the album’s single, “Girl Like You,” a new-age love song released early in July, Bundick eerily warns us, “That was summer love / late night, cemetery / there’s still a light out / temporary love in sight now / life is scary baby look out,” as the song unfolds into questioning. The most interesting part about Boo Boo, though, is that Bundick utilizes white space throughout the album to showcase the complex ricochet of beats. Nevertheless, longtime fans won’t be disappointed to hear that this album is yet another exciting, new direction for Toro y Moi, who has experimented widely since dropping Causers of This in 2010. Turn on Boo Boo to lose your reality for a little bit. —Maeve Holler

ANTIGRAVITY-AUGUST-2017-REVIEW-MUSIC-WAXAHATCHEEWAXAHATCHEE
OUT IN THE STORM
(MERGE)
Katie Crutchfield has done it again. Out in the Storm, the fourth studio album released by Waxahatchee (Crutchfield’s solo project) is an incredibly intricate and vulnerable journey through post-breakup life. With that in mind, this record isn’t unlike Waxahatchee’s previous releases, American Weekend and Cerulean Salt, where she strums lightly on a guitar, reciting tender lyrics about life, loss, solitude, and love. But on Out in the Storm, Crutchfield’s lyricism has taken on a new, revolutionary feel—like she has come to terms with the end of her relationship, and now she can clearly view the cracks and flaws that lived within it, embracing her messy life on the “other side.” On the track “No Questions,” punchy guitar tones accent Crutchfield’s admissions about her newly found freedom: “When I’m seeing red I’m embarrassed / it’s suffocating / I hoped howling out all this truth / would be liberating / but all the pity spills from the seams / and everyone questions the unseen / and it sets you free / it sets you free / it sets you free.” Throughout the record, listeners can find relatable tracks rife with imagery about the confusion, anger, and pain of being tangled up in your own relationship. Some songs, like “Recite Remorse” and “Brass Beam,”even give us insight into the way she has used this album to embrace that hurt and, consequently, change. Crutchfield’s remarkable strength deeply resonates on this record, and with lines like “I was shaking like a leaf / I was clenching my fists / I was losing my mind, yeah / I was dancing with death,” scattered throughout, it’s possible that it could definitely give you the courage to face your own storms. —Maeve Holler

ANTIGRAVITY-AUGUST-2017-REVIEW-BOOK-HOMESICK-FOR-ANOTHER-WORLD

OTTESSA MOSHFEGH
HOMESICK FOR ANOTHER WORLD
(PENGUIN PRESS)
Ottessa Moshfegh’s first collection of short stories peeks into the minds of 14 characters who, while not exactly alien as the title suggests, are alienated from the goings on of the world at large. The reader is presented with a variety of grotesque personalities dredged from the muck of human experience. There is, for example: an alcoholic schoolteacher, a leering neighbor, and an aspiring actor. Each story is told in first person and from an intimate perspective, in a confessional style replete with sordid details (which are often revealed in a matter-of-fact, off-handed manner). Imperfect, fleshy bodies are poked and picked at and then tucked away. Whether the deformities of the characters are physical, mental, or spiritual, each of them comes up lacking. Reading this collection in quick succession is akin to eating a giant bag of greasy potato chips—you can’t stop yourself from doing it and you’ll probably feel sick for a while after it’s over. At least you can take solace in remembering that you aren’t as bad off as the suckers in the book. Or maybe it’s comforting to think that other people might be out there in this messed up world without a clue, too. —Alex Taylor

ANTIGRAVITY-AUGUST-2017-REVIEW-BOOK-INFINITE-TUESDAYMICHAEL NESMITH
INFINITE TUESDAY: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL RIFF
(CROWN/ARCHETYPE)
In the 1960s, the Fab Four of The Beatles had a made-for-television counterpart in the Prefab Four of The Monkees, one of whom was guitarist and singer-songwriter Mike Nesmith. Those days are only briefly touched upon in Infinite Tuesday, however, because Nesmith has always been a Renaissance man of sorts, obsessed far more with the arts than with those fleeting days of fame. Not that those times didn’t affect him. Dipping into an invented shorthand of sorts likely inspired by his uncle, he delves into the things Celebrity Psychosis can do to a person, as well as the workings of the Hollywood Mind that he’s struggled with for most of his creative life. Despite such musings, Nesmith writes of such events as his invention of the music video, his encounters with Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Cash, and former NBC head Brandon Tartikoff, his connections to Christian Science, and the management of foundations begun by his mother (a self-made inventor and businesswoman)—all in ways filled with ironic humor and evidence of a searching, probing intellect always at work. Nesmith, more often than not ahead of his time in so many things, finds that time flies, and wounds heal, when you’re living life to its fullest. —Leigh Checkman

ANTIGRAVITY-AUGUST-2017-REVIEW-BOOK-THE-REFUGEESVIET THANH NGUYEN
THE REFUGEES
(GROVE PRESS)
The Vietnam-born American writer Viet Thanh Nguyen follows up his dazzling, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Sympathizer with this quiet, powerful collection of short stories about Vietnamese refugees living in post-Vietnam War U.S.A. Circling contemporary refugee life from seemingly inexhaustible angles, story topics vary widely, including the continuing presence of Vietnamese cultural signifiers like ghost stories and the fracturing of family memory. Realities of deep language and culture gaps emerge between those who left and those who stayed and now lead drastically different lives. Like Flannery O’Connor, Nguyen’s style is poetically blunt, with precise word choice and metaphors directing the reader in not only what to see, but also what is intended to be felt. Also like O’Connor, he insists on the moral complexity—even moral irreducibility—of his characters and the circumstances they find themselves in, directing empathy and condemnation in rich, surprising directions. —Travis Bird

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