So, how many essays about music this week are starting or ending with a variation of “in times of horror, sometimes music is the only thing that gives us hope” or some such sentiment, do you think? Ten? A Hundred? All of them? I’m guessing “all of them.” We are a wacky, decadent culture, made up of people who prefer to consume art as if it’s something we’re entitled to; not through strength of character or victory, but through defeat; as consolation for all that our victimhood has entailed. All pain is a given, and all joy a shadow response extending from the larger body of suffering. All consumption must be rationalized as necessary self-care, lest our existence within cultural decadence be confused with complicity or, worse, comfort. The world, therefore, is a vampire, and we’re just smol beans with big necks.
So if we, as a society, want to treat every click that sends $10 to some shadowy Bandcamp/JagJaguar Axis as a purchase of the psychic equivalent of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” that’s our business. The misery business of America is misery business. And business, as Dave Mustaine once said, is good.
Please forgive me if I sound cynical. Our current sanctions against Afghanistan are infuriating and I’m writing this from Becket, Massachusetts, where my dad is, while maintaining his always inspiringly jolly disposition, not doing as hot as I’d like. So I’m cranky.
In that vein, I’m not terribly interested in getting into the purchasing of Bandcamp by Epic Games. In my current state of mind, I don’t know that I can talk about it without being unkind to some, I’m sure, very nice people. I’ll simply say that I hope the writers and editors at Bandcamp Daily are treated fairly, I’m grateful for all the work they’ve done so far and hope they are allowed to continue that work, and I hope Bandcamp continues to be a useful for-profit company in which artists are able to be compensated for their labor.
OK, maybe one jerky note: I also wish for a moratorium, applicable to both corporations and individuals, on the terms “community,” “DIY,” and “independent.” A moratorium to be applied posthaste, for the foreseeable future. At least until 2035.
Anyhoo, in these dark times etc etc, I got some new music recommendations.
Nosaj & V8 TFD Acid is Groovy Kill the Pigz
Last year, I tweeted “Playing New Kingdom at the bar” (because it was true) and was pleasantly delighted to get multiple responses of “I love New Kingdom!” I don’t know why I thought that New Kingdom, a NYC rap duo who put out two masterpieces of swamp-psych hip hop in the ‘90s, weren’t beloved. When I moved to the city in ‘96/’97 (I can’t remember which), New Kingdom were practically myths in the boho-noise community I aspired to join, but then I didn’t hear anything about them for over a decade. Which is indicative only of my own bubble. Heads realer than myself never stopped knowing. Culminating with Nosaj of New Kingdom making the most of a feature on Armand Hammer’s Shrines. When I considered writing an appreciation of the group (and their collaborator Scotty Hard), I found multiple essays already written (the most recent being an excellent overview, by Kevin J. Elliott, in the 6th issue of Maggot Brain) that were so insightful that I didn’t feel like I could improve upon them, so I didn’t try.
Also, I had seen Nosaj perform a live show that was so drunkenly awkward that I, to be honest, wasn’t sure if pursuing a profile wouldn’t be equally uncomfortable. I’ve never romanticized Syd Barret, late-period Roky Erickson, or any other damaged genius. I feared Nosaj had gone in that direction; an incoherent savant consigned to be beloved mainly by overly affected obscurity collectors. Again, shows how much I fucking know. Because this album–-a collab with Chicago’s V8 TFD, and with a guest turn by the always delirium-inducing Fatboi Sharif–-is a revelation. V8 TFD’s beats swagger the line between stuttering stabs of noise-funk and woozy low-low-lows. It doesn’t really matter whether the feeling of continuity between Acid is Groovy Kill the Pigs and New Kingdom’s catalog is due to the original duo’s forward thinking or V8 TFD’s ability to marry a contemporary minimalism to the sludgy, blues-weirdo throughline that has run through art like Nosaj’s since The Gories’ cover of “Ghost Rider” was just a glimmer in Satan-at-The-Crossroads’ eye. Either way, in laying down a rock solid bottom, complicated by treacherous topography, V8 makes for a challengingly supportive and trickily symbiotic partner. Nosaj sounds more than coherent; he sounds extrasensory. Sometimes growly, sometimes drawling in deadpan, always drawing from an encyclopedic knowledge of trash culture and back alley phantasmagoria, Nosaj makes the doubters (in this case, me) look like the ignorant assholes they so obviously were all along.
BTW I haven’t sat with the new Fatboi Sharif & LoneSword yet, but first listen indicates that Sharif is continuing his hot streak; now neck and neck with solo Elucid as co-king (inks) of cinematically avant-noise dream-hop. (I’m not, for the love of god, suggesting “dream-hop” as an inane genre name… just a hopefully useful descriptor. Seriously, don’t use it. I’ll die.)
The Veldt Electric Revolution (Rhythm and Drone)
This NYC/Raleigh shoegaze outfit, previously known as Apollo Heights, have been kicking around for a minute, always well regarded by in-the-know scenesters, while never getting anything approaching their due. I’m, as a rule, pretty cautious in my application of the term “soulful” to artists, for a variety of reasons that the careful reader of critical malpractice can probably guess at. Luckily The Veldt call themselves “soulgaze” so I’m wild and free to point out that (as the entire record abounds with MBV, A.R. Kane, and J&MC touchstones) the song “Red Flagz” is a perfect fucking dream(pop) of Philly soul-stirred vocals over shimmer-blown blasts of static. In fact, everything here works within the heppest paisley, hazy, and assorted boho noisenik traditions. Apparently these songs are a taste of an upcoming album, which if it is as bruisingly evocative and richly direct as this EP, will finally get The Veldt the massive riches and interdimensional fame they deserve. I mean, my faith in the industry is pretty low, so I’m pulling for The Veldt to at least get a song placement in a Marvel movie (and not one of those execrable X-Men movies either… ).
Kill Alters Armed To The Teeth L.M.O.M.M.
Quoting my own tweet is embarrassing as hell, but I’m not sure I can improve upon it soooo… “The new Kill Alters is really something else. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m too soft for their earlier stuff, but now they’ve gone from “gkkkkkkkkzxxxxxfgzzzzxxxxzxxxrrrrrf!!!!🔨🔨🔨🔨zzxrrrrr” to a more accessible “gzzzzzzrrrrkkBONGBONGBONGgzzz,”I quite like it.” –Me, On Twitter Dot Com
Kill Alters were a NYC band but they moved to Pittsburgh, which furthers my belief that the future of weirdo “rock” (or whatever) is in Pittsburgh and Tucson and Baltimore and if you’re a weirdo rocker (or whatever) you should probably move to one of those cities ASAP or risk being omitted from the oral histories lurking at those scenes’ peripheries like ticks carrying the Black Death. While countless coastal elites are slamming their neck tattoos against the wall trying to sound like Nitzer Ebb or some other Eastern European Electronic Fence Walk Music outfit, Kill Alters embody the actual Mute/Nettwerk spirit by bastardizing house and electronic music to best suit the confines their own squirming cavern-minds. Control I’m Here, but, like, on Opposite Day. (That’s my cute way of saying that Kill Alters sound real good, but are wild. Not, like, “in control.” Get it??? Great.)
Aboogi was kind of buried within my Bandcamp wishlist because I’d planned to pre-order it so long ago that I forgot to, you know, actually order it. Luckily another album I’d intended to go on this list turned out to be pretty boring, so I went a-digging and refound this album. I’d have been consumed with regret if I’d missed it. Because this record is a beauty, in ways Imarhan’s previous (very good) album only hinted at. I won’t bore you with my “Which ‘Desert Blues’ Band Most Closely Relates, In My Mind, To Which Classic ‘70s Band” chart, suffice to say that, If Kel Assouf is Uriah Heep, Imarhan are currently occupying the CSNY (with a dash of If Only I Could Remember My Name era solo Crosby, for those of you keeping track) spot. As liltingly haunted and spiritedly melancholy as anything to come out of either North West Africa or North West North America in recent memory, Imarhan have shifted their previously groove-focussed desert blues further into a plaintive, misty mountain, folk rock direction. At times sounding like a more meditative Fairport Convention and, at other times, sounding like the house band of The Dreaming (the Sandman comic book territory or the plot of imaginary land run by Kate Bush; your pick). It’s gorgeous stuff and if you think you know what Tuareg rock is all about (a presumptuous thing to think under even the best circumstances), this album will blow that misapprehension out of the water.
Rot TV Tales of Torment
Before (and concurrent to) The Strokes and the “New Rock Revolution” rendering them all near obsolete by making clear that the Actual Kids preferred post-punk club hits and sexy Velvet Underground boy bands to gearhead MC5 pastiche, there was a healthy (sonically if not physically), equally tight-pantsed rawk ‘n’ roll underground that prioritized street walkin’ cheetahs and Stiv Bators sneer over Lou Reed cool and disco beats. It wasn’t better (by any stretch of the imagination) but, at it’s best, it wasn’t worse either. Bands like Gaza Strippers (yeah, I know), The Candy Snatchers, and Bel Rays made a raucous, scummy, hard soul bop tailor-fit for gone-daddy miscreants; the kind of real bastards and bastarditas that the average NYU student would studiously avoid ever Meeting In The Bathroom if they could help it. Anyway, Rot TV (ex-Annihilation Time) makes the kind of gnarly hip-shake that would fit in real nice on a Fistful of Rock & Roll comp. And one of the early ones, before shit got depressing and/or garage-revival/reviled. Mutinously catchy distorto-sex-beat rock that conjures up an alterate reality where all the lazy cowgirls and flaming telepaths weren’t priced out of their respective Lower East Sides and bar bathrooms stayed a place where honest rockers weren’t expected to hook up with graphic designers or label publicists; they could just lock the stall door and die, just like their pappies and their pappies’ pappies before them. Supposedly these songs are horror derived. But they sound like love songs to me.
Etran de L’aïr Agadez
Shimmering like spirits over hot tar, the guitars of Etran de L’aïr are relentlessly gorgeous. They’re enough to make Richard Thompson give up ownership of “Pour Down Like Silver,” or at least presumably make him want to share the accurately evocative album title with artists equally committed to his style of crystalline-backed-by-force string picking. This family band (from Agadez, Niger) play a sinewy dance-rock that has surface similarities to other well known guitar outfits coming out of the Sahel region–repetition, blues grit rendered as sultany swing–but the band’s focus is less on Tinariwen-style rockin’ hypnosis and more on a Tal National insistence to move one’s body till one leaves one’s body behind. With a swerving dynamism that most jam bands would use all three wishes owed to them by the bong genie on and a pulsating commitment to forward motion that borders on rapturous (not to mention a cymbal crash sound that Darkthrone would burn a church for), Etran de L’aïr have made an album that sounds, more than anything else, like how sunlight feels.
Exek Advertise Here
I have lots of borderline tedious theories of what makes a good post-punk band. The one I usually bang on about is something along the lines of “the spirit of Public Image Ltd. and/or The Slits but not, for God’s sake, not the sound.” Meaning; love dub, and go further. In that way, I usually consider Brazil’s Rakta to be a platonic ideal of post-punk. Not that I don’t enjoy all the Joy Divisionairs or Mark E. Smith mutterers (do I ever!), but I still think that, unless you have something I need to hear about SOCIETY, I prefer a post-punk band that’s chosen space as the place for them to hang their haircuts. In either a loving tribute or a impudent rebuke to my carefully thought out theorizing, Australia’s Exek make a post-punk that (in its use of staggering melodies, ambient flurries of horn and organ, in-and-out-of-consciousness discontent, and abstractly persistent rhythms) ably combines the prettified melancholy of Chameleons fetishists, the scathing analysis of Fall-esque close talkers, and the expanding-universe vibeology of bands like P.I.L, Rakta, and African Head Charge. The result is something that almost feels, heaven forbid, new. Not that novelty is an inherent virtue, but Exek makes a feeling-around-of-the-edges that invigorates as much as it revels in exploration of the obscure. At times, it’s shockingly lovely.
Bambara Love On My Mind
If Turnstile are hardcore for people who don’t care about hardcore, then Bambara are goth for people who don’t particularly care about goth. This is not an insult. Both bands are as authentic (whatever that means) as they come and both bands have plenty of fans who care about the respective genres just the right amount. And both genres of music are lousy with mediocrities that care way, way too much. Sometimes a band is able to take what’s useful about a subculture sound and make it accessible on an admirable universal level. Sometimes the kids deserve to be able to mix it up in the dark, without the burden of a scene syllabus.
I’ve written about Bambara before, usually using terms like “Moth” (mod+goth) and “sexy beasts.” Those terms still apply. The Iceage comparisons still apply (though the reader should keep in mind that Bamabara began their gun club crawl around the same time as their equally sexy counterparts). And Bambara are still hyper-literate, candle-lit, sensual creeps who dress and sound like The Cult and Jonathan Fire*Eater making out in an open air Uniqlo dressing room. Meaning they know how important drama is to the human heart, they know how to write actual songs that communicate that heart sick/enabling drama, and they know the coolest way to perform those songs is as if the band were (gallon) drunk as hell and howling in the general direction of the moon. But if all the previous hyperbole still applies, Love On My Mind is where Bambara comes as close as they’ve yet come to perfecting their throbbingly romantic vision. Do you want noir-wave or do you want the truth? Bambara got both in their pocket, and I join the kids in being delighted to see it.
Deaf Club Productive Disruption
Justin Pearson is, in his fashion, a puritan. He’s got a moral compass as sharp as a knife. His vision of hardcore is ascetic. And his atheism has never gotten in the way of his knowledge of humanity’s fallen nature. That said; if the puritans had looked half as good in tight pants, there’d have been no need to burn all those witches; they’d have self-immolated from horniness alone. Pearson is a rockstar despite himself, despite his contempt for the very notion. As is often the case in this wild life, complexity abounds.
And, as is so often the case with Pearson’s art, the acetic nature of his hardcore is illusary. Despite the militant brevity of these fourteen songs, each under-two-minute blast contains enough ideas and internal accruement to supply a lesser hardcore the raw materials to make their own (lesser… obviously) Zen Arcade. Perverse tunings feed into perverse rhythms, polyrhythms played at the speed of d-beat feed into prot-screamo squalls (in a world where screamo never became hair metal), all of which in turn feeds into Pearson’s strangely tuneful, controlled shrieking (to whatever avail) in the face of the enshrouding societal obscenity that is modern life. I find Deaf Club to be charismatic fun (sorry, Justin) but it’s all a blissfully scaberous “fuck you” to every “there’s no protest music anymore” thinkpiece that over-culture inflicts upon us on regular basis in the mistaken belief that everyone is going to just swallow the shit that the over-culture insists on feeding us.
La Milagrosa Pánico
Speaking of protest music, the discerning aesthetes at Iron Lung give us another slab of gloriously brutalist, heavenly reverbed punk rock music. La Milagrosa, an outfit of Puerto Rican New York punx, take the Blitz-inspired dark punk of bands like Criminal Damage and sprinkle on enough Destino Final space-rock effects, and hardcore breakdowns, to maintain a spirit of muscular dervishness throughout. The album is as anthemic as any street punk, while avoiding any rote tendencies common in the genre. In fact, the way the echoed vocals cascade into each other gives even the most gut-punch, straight-ahead tracks a delirious quality; acknowledging the prevalent darkness while insisting that the only through that disorienting darkness is forward. It’s, regardless of the negativity inherent in the sound, real pro-human music. Or, at very least, it inspires one to try to be human.
Budget Singles: Don't have $8 to spend? I understand! It's rough out there! But here's some boss new Bandcamp singles/EPs for cheap!
Neutrals Bus Stop Nights
Ted Leo & The Pharmicists Andy, Come Out
mueran humanos Reemplazante
Nuha Ruby Ra My Voice
The Paranoid Style Exit Interview With P.G.Wodehouse
Nada Surf Popular (Rerecorded)
Chubby and The Gang Labour of Love
Faten Kanaan Cascando
Thanks for reading. Please share and subscribe if so inclined. And here's an Afghan relief charity that Zohra's family founded a number of years back, if you're able to spare a few dollars. Thanks for that as well. See you soon.