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Housewives - Housewives

If one was to guess the looks and the overall mood of a certain city or town where a band come from from their sound, then guessing by the nihilistic, atonal sound of the Brighton based band Housewives, this seaside town must be one hell of a depressing place to live in, consumed by fear and urban decay, kinda like New York City in the 1970’s and 1980’s, at the peak of its no wave period. And certainly, Housewives borrow a lot from the harsh traditions of the no wave genre, filling their hard-hitting tracks with avant-garde leanings and post-punk energy, propelled forward by mathematic rhythms and razor-sharp guitar notes, fuelled by anger and paranoia. A must-have for fans of both DNA, No New York comp and This Heat. Highly recommended!

semantik punk - abcdefghijklmnoprstuwxyz

How fast can you spit out the entire alphabet? This is the question members of the Warsaw based mathcore/noise rock unit Semantik Punk (previously operating under the alias Moja Adrenalina) asked themselves when recording the alphabet-named album. Nine violents blasts combine strange, surreal word play, broken rhythms, dissonant guitars, odd time signatures and most importantly, true punk fury that seeps from every passing second of this explosive album. The childish, cute artwork is just a decoy for the sonic destruction that stabs the listener from all sides at once with unrelenting madness. Grab the CD from Lado ABC if you like the stuff.

Alameda 3 - Późne Królestwo

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Kuba Ziołek is quickly becoming one of my favorite Polish musicians - I think he should change his name to Midas Ziołek, because everything he touches turns into psychedelic gold. He’s got an unique vision of sound that was practically absent until lately in most “underground” Polish music. With every project he’s taking part in - Hokei, Stara Rzeka, Innercity Ensemble, Ti’en Lai, Ed Wood - every sound is marked with musical erudition and esoteric energy - the sound is described as “magical brutalism”, a term that fits perfectly despite its paradoxical inclinations. As Alameda 3, Ziołek teams up with Tomek Popowski on drums and Mikołaj Zieliński on bass to create an all-enveloping wall of trippy post-post-rock sound with a fragmented, atonal noise/math-rock edge. What else might a tireless explorer of experimental guitar sounds need? Pretty fucking essential. Highly recommended, along with other projects by Kuba, which I’ve given earlier in this post.

EDIT: Apparently, We Are From Poland! used the same Midas reference when writing about Alameda 3, too. What a coincidence! Great minds think alike. :)

Masturbation Goes Cloud - Masturbation Goes Cloud

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Despite the rather ridiculous name, this Athens, Greece based instrumental bunch have a pretty serious and refined sound. On their selt-titled 2011 debut, they fuse the looping, minimal set-up of Pharaoh Overlord with hints of Chicagoan school of post-rock (as in: Tortoise) and penchant for Can worship with relentless rhythmical drumming a’la Jaki Liebezeit. The album just goes on and on, without ever stopping and taking you into the whirlwind. It plays like the musical representation of Le Corbusier’s vision of a perfect city, the Ville Radieuse, the never realized ultimate modernist dream of a cty, the linear utopia powered by autobahns. Let the kraut-math fest begin. Highly recommended!

Hokei - Don’t Go

This multi-armed (and multi-legged, considering they’ve got not only one, but TWO drummers!) Polish monster will blow your hats away with their melodic labirynth which fuses math rock, noise rock and post-rock (think the early 90’s post-rock, when was still raw and punky - i.e. Slint, Rodan, Shipping News etc.) into a lengthy joyride that never gets tiring or trapped in their own “mathematic” approach. Highly recommended, there is a possiblity that once you get hooked on the opening killer “Primax”, you’ll be glued to the album for a long time. POLISH POWER!!!

The Earth is a Man - The Earth is a Man

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Taking the ephemeral, atmospheric quality of post-rock without falling into lengthy crescendo-filled onanism and the technical prowess of math rock without trappings itself in needlessly convoluted and irregular time signatures and guitar noodlings, Chicago based band The Earth is a Man strives to make songs and melodies easily remembered and catchy while keeping some of the more experimental tendencies exposed. Interesting guitar interplay and not-so-usual rhythms are a staple here, but it never gets tiring - quite the opposite; TEIAM puts melodic bliss first - they seem like a more ecstatic and a slightly (only slightly!) punkier version of Tortoise, minus their jazz inclinings. Described by at least one person (according to their Bandcamp bio) as “soft-math”, The Earth is a Man might be a great starting point for anyone trying to begin their adventure with math rock and to whom bands like Hella or Don Caballero might seem too “mathy” by comparison. Recommended!

Apollo Vermouth / Skamp - A Simple Sadness

Sometimes the simplest things are the deepest and the most effective of all. A Simple Sadness, a split between Milwaukee units Apollo Vermouth and Skamp. The first one does a heavenly, minimalistic wall guitar drone while the latter play deconstructed punk with a neurotic math rock edge. It’s fiuckin messy and lo-fi as shit, as it’s supposed to be. As Apollo V. reminds us on their 15 minute monoliuth epic: DON’T BE SAD!

uSSSy - Afghan Music House Party

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The new album by the Russian duo uSSSy is one of the most singularly uncompromising and stylistically fresh experimental rock releases of the last frew years. Merging the spastic kinetics of noise/math rock in the style of such acts as Hella or Noxagt with traditional Afghan music structures and guitar playing imitating Afghan instruments, Afghan Music House Party is a story of Soviet-Afghan conflict told after many years with an amplified, fuzzy aftertaste - like a modern day version of German Oak’s self-titled album, the 1972 krautrock “concept album” gem about Nazi Germany and WW2. If you enjoyed the blend of afrobeat and psych rock on Goat’s World Music, this album will be right up your alley. Highly, highly recommended!

Review: Jealousy Mountain Duo - No_2

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(CD / Vinyl LP, Blunoise Records, 2012)

If that old 70’s jazz drumset mentioned by the musicians from Jealousy Mountain Duo on their Bandcamp page hasn’t taken a beating in its previous life, with its previous owners then if definitely took one with the drummer of this incredible free improv duo. The German micro-ensemble Jealousy Moutain Duo stormed the scene (and became Weed Temple’s favorites) back in 2011 with their highly energetic debut vinyl record, channeling the post-rock sensibilties through seemingly disjointed free jazz structures. Their newest release, titled simply “No_2” tries to one-up the previous album, by trying to sound even more energetic and spastic. And more melodic.

The opening “The Home of Easy Credit” unveils the intention of JMD very well: it is chaotic at first, but gradually exposes the scraps of pleasant, bucolic melody in a series of violent jerks punctuated by cymbal crashes and amphetaminic drum breaks, all submissive to the irregular, jagged rhythm filling almost every free space left. The guitar and the drums complement each other graeatly: while the strings remain largely ascetic in nature, rarely breaking into the spotlight, rather going for minimalistic strumming with mathematical precision, the drums keep growing in one explosion after another; never going mute or stale, always on the move, like a caged wild animal, seeking release from tension.

Tension is one of the main constructive forces behind the duo; the whole album is 95% keeping it, barely harnessing the power of instruments and 5% release. And when the release finally comes, it is THE RELEASE, in capital fucking letters, blowing up straight into the listener’s face (or in this case: ears), getting off the hook and losing all limits. This is when the post-rock deconstruction transforms itself into a noise rock monster. Like in the shortie-but-goodie “All Day Blizzard”, in which from a series of false starts and sudden jerks rises an atomic monster of a riff, only to be stopped seconds later and forced into free improv again. “All Day Blizzard” is a personal favorite of mine, showing what the duo can do once they leave the constraints of improvisation for a moment and go for a more traditional riff - the power of those few micro-riffs appear to parallel and challenge even those of Lightning Bolt or Hella, which shows the band’s incredible expertise in displaying power.

They are hiding their power well, but I hope one day they just won’t keep the tension any longer and will make a truly explosive album with those superpowers of theirs.

Houdan the Mystic - Archer’s Jamboree

Mathematic power trio from Richmond, VA make music that has every right to be considered technical and expert-like in its execution, yet it doesn’t sound cold, austere or dryly academic. It’s math rock, yet it retains the warm, human feel some math rock bands lose in favor of scientific precision. The sound is close to earth and accessible, yet complex and multi-layered. What Battles might have sounded like if it consisted of talented small town folk with a feel of “local” exp rock instead of avant-garde experimentators.

Review: Kristen - An Accident EP (Lado ABC, 2011)

Until not so long ago, I was one of the many to consider Polish music scene a burned-out wasteland only filled with third-grade, watered-down post-grunge and sung poetry talentless fucks with no vision (or knowledge) of music other than the most maisntream rock music imaginable. Thankfully, it turned out, I was very wrong and gradually I started discovering bands so out of the ordinary and so looking forward it made my head spin. Among many discoveries was a Szczecin noise rock outfit Kristen which exists since 1997 - 15 years of existnce makes them veterans of the scene, doesn’t it?

This review is of a four-track EP I acquired in physical form after their free concert in a small art gallery. It was recorded in December 2010 and released at some point in 2011 by probably the most forward-thinking Polish label (next only to Sangoplasmo Records, maybe) Lado ABC, who also released Kristen’s latest full-length, Western Lands The first three tracks on An Accident follow a similar formula. The initially bucolic and slow post-rock (as in: early, 90’s post-rock, but almost pop in their melodic happiness) melodies are gradually strangled by walls of improvised guitar noise, which can be placed somewhere between Keiji Haino’s brutal workouts and Thurston Moore’s solo work. For example, in the opening title track, the calm baritone guitar line is chopped and slashed by a series of abstract drum breakdowns and feedbacking, droning guitar. The following “The Grid” and “The Mist” build up the tension by layering walls of noise (often played in tremolo) on almost poppy framework of the song.

The whole tension is relieved, however, on the explosive closing track “Hold Me”. An amphetamine monster of a bassline is supported by maniacal, precise drumming and a plethora of noisy guitar effects, ranging from jangly, ear-shattering tremolos to walls of sustained guitar feedback noise, seeminlgy gaining their own will separately from the guitarist. This was even more powerful live, with me thrashing around right in front of the band while the other people in the gallery just kind of stood there semi-interested, bobbing their heads politely, as if embarassed to make any kind of movement that would differentiate themselves from the surrounding inanimate walls. But you know what? Fuck them. Kristen is awesome, and this EP is a document of what they can do live. I just can hope they record more tracks like “Hold Me” in the future. 

Mother Night - Giants in the Electronic Wallpaper

Like a team of highly skiller guerilla fighters, the technical math rock unit Mother Night attacks suddenly and quits suddenly, parts of aggressive, mathematically precise hardcore punk mix with electronic weirdness and psychedelic rock trippiness into a truly explosive mix of refreshing rock ideas. Heavy shit, man. Recommended. And availbale for free download!

Review: Jealousy Mountain Duo - Jealousy Mountain Duo (BluNoise, 2011)

While the German label BluNoise Records might be more known the the fans of “out there” music for the vicious, angular noise rock of Nicoffeine (whose Lighthealer Stalking Flashplayer I reviewed), relentless guitar destruction is not their only forte. The self-titled LP by Jealousy Mountain Duo is a foray into the world of abstract, mathematic guitar-based free improv that sounds like the deconstruction of 1990’s math rock and post-rock groups from the United States. Jealousy Mountain Duo walk the line between improvisational chaos and beautiful, captivating semi-melodies.

In keeping with the math rock and free improv traditions, the music here is technically proficient, the rhythms are tight and the snakelike guitar noodling precise, but there is always place for playfulness and a specific sense of humor - like the wonderfully Don Caballero-esque titles “David Has Awesome Hair” or “A Song Without Handclaps”. Berger and Scheider create some intense chemistry here, jumping from slightly muted, calmer interludes to fully blown out, chaotic maelstorm further propelled by maniacal drum patterns, that follow each other like a late Autechre (late, as in Untilted late) jam rewritten for drums and guitar. Clusters of seemingly chaotic guitar notes range from somewhat pastoral (like a distant cousin of Tortoise) to aggressively distorted and mangled, channeling a slightly less amplified Keiji Haino at his finest - although even more random and unpredictable.

If you enjoy improvised guitar vs. drum duels in the vein of Matta Gawa (but not as lo-fi) and abstraction of highest order without much idea of direction (in the most positive sense, of course), then this is essential listening.

Get the LP at the Blunoise Records shop.

Birthgiving Toad - As Fruit Hat

The fresh, new album from the Danish freewheelin’ stoner math rock collective Birthgiving Toad. As Fruit Hat is a collection of 10 songs that are wonderfully, anarchically atonal yet funky and rockin’ at the same time. Burning hard rock solos find common ground with vintage organ workouts and fragmented, deconstructed structure in the vein of rock music’s great experimentalists. A good effort that should be sooner or later noticed.