Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cülo - Life Is Vile ... and So Are We [2011]

It's the last day of January, the sun is down, and it's 55 degrees (Fahrenheit) outside in central Illinois. Climate change or not (yeah go ahead, deny it, you AGW-denier --or person who understands that unseasonably warm local temperatures are not necessarily representative of a larger global tren-- oh shit, a digression within a digression), it's fucking hot outside. Maybe it's my Midwestern brain requiring me to wear layers in winter regardless of actual temperature, but I've been sweating more than necessary over the past few days. So here's something to get you steppin' and sweatin', too.

Life Is Vile... compiles a bunch of tapes, demos, 7''s, etc. by this venerable Chicago punk institution. Basically a First Four Years equivalent, and -- dare I say it? -- just as essential. Twenty-five songs in just under twenty-six minutes. If you're into Cülo you probably have this record already, or at least many of the songs on it. (By the way, if a Latin dude ever asks you if you're "into culo," make sure you understand the context of the question before answering).

To give a rough idea for the uninitiated, they sound like the Ramones on PCP (uncreative analogy, sue me). Watch this set by them, from a gig I really wish I'd gone to. [Also available by the same uploader from the same gig are sets by Skrapyard, Hoax, Crazy Spirit]

Witch In Her Tomb - S/t Cassette EP [2012]

And now for something completely different. Another friend of mine made this. I don't know anything about metal, and doubly so for black metal. Usually I just find it irritating. The blast-beat hi-hat in black metal tends to sound tinny as hell and makes it hard to hear anything else. Well, not here. This is some pretty hi-fidelity shit, and it is oh so good. In an attempt to get in the right mindset, I sat in my closet with the lights off, headphones on, and let myself be pulled into the abyss. Witch In Her Tomb manage to sound melodic without sacrificing any rawness. There are no song titles, just Satori-style (or perhaps Fushitsusha-style, if you prefer) Roman numerals, and the tape works as a single continuous piece. Still, my favorite songs are probably the two at the end, "V" and "VI" (the last minute or so makes for one of the best-sounding feedback workouts I've heard in a while). This is black metal for people who dig hardcore punk -- the vocals sound a bit like Raw Nerve at times. Very much worth checking out, even if you'd normally stay away from this kind of fare.

The first run of 25 tapes sold out pretty quick, but I hear they'll be making some more. This is on Crippled Sound Records out of Urbana, Illinois. A digital copy can be downloaded for free at their bandcamp site (below).

Buy Witch In Her Tomb on Crippled Sound [currently sold out, check back soon]
Everyone's insane and I'm my only hope

Sunday, January 29, 2012

BBR - Definitions EP [2012]

Here's something a friend gave me. Undulating, lush electronic sound-forms flowing over beats that resemble a comfy couch in my mind's eye. I don't know a whole hell of a lot about electronic music outside of krautrock stuff, but I certainly know that much of what I hear at parties is pretty shite. This, though - this is something I could dance to without even having to be drunk. There is quite a little bit going on in these recordings, but as far as influences go, I'll give it to you straight from the horse's mouth:
My background hasn't always been electronic music, and I never really played an instrument when I was younger, so now that I'm officially "into" making electronic stuff, I feel like I'm constantly catching up with bands I should have known about and genres I need to get "schooled" in. Getting that out of the way, I'd say the things I'm most interested in are acts from the Los Angeles beat-scene, like Shigeto, or Tokimonsta, and the new wave of UK electronic music, sometimes referred to as post-dubstep, or future garage, like Mount Kimbie, SBTRKT, Sepalcure and some others. Star Slinger and Clams Casino are hip-hop producers that are pretty inspiring as well, one for his danceable, Soul/RnB infused beats, and the other for his really atmospheric, cinematic kind of tracks. It's strange because the hip-hop scene is one area where EDM producers could really make an impact and help evolve the culture, and a few have, as I just mentioned. I've actually been in contact with an MC named Vulkan the Krusader, and he's used one of my tracks, Cali-Dome as the single on his newest mixtape, so trying to break into working with people like that is something I have in mind for the future too. I tried to make the EP have elements of all those things, and it worked out somewhat, but I'm still narrowing down my sound and wondering what direction I'll take things next. The only thing I don't want to do is become known for doing one thing and following some kind of fad.
For many of you, dear readers, dubstep (or post-dubstep) is probably a dirty word. But take heed, this isn't some capricious pseudo-electronic bullshit. This music connotes to me a sense of wonder at all that is new and good in the world, like viewing the stars for the first time. Have a listen and get into it, man:

Listen to/Buy Definitions on BBR's bandcamp [name your price]
Hear more BBR on soundcloud

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Steve Bjorklund: Strike Under + Breaking Circus [1981~1989]

Live at Tut's, Chicago, ca. 1981
Here is some Chicago punk history for you. Steve Bjorklund formed Strike Under in 1980 after the end of his first band, which was apparently a garagey, protopunk sort of group called the Rabbits. Strike Under consisted of Steve, his brother Chris (later of the Effigies), Pierre Kedzy (later of Naked Raygun), and Bob Furem, who later played in Da. Their first show was at Northeastern University, and through 1980 and 1981 they played the usual places such as Tut's and Oz.

Their only proper release was 1981's Immediate Action 12" EP, which is notable for being the first record from Wax Trax, back before it was a powerhouse of industrial music. The songs are melodic without sounding too polished. Is this the so-called 'Chicago Sound?' I dunno, but it's pretty clear to me that the songs 'Sunday Night Disorientation' and 'Elephant's Graveyard' make this EP worth having. Long out of print. You can read a great Coolest Retard review of this record, as well as a review of Da's Dark Rooms 7'' and a Strike Under interview, in the Dementlieu Punk Archive.

a pretty stacked night, this one
Strike Under also had two songs on the 1980 Busted at Oz live comp, which I will probably post eventually. Also, in 2010 there was a sort-of reunion of Strike Under, as part of the Busted at Oz reunion shows. Vic Bondi from Articles of Faith was one of the dudes in the 'Strike Under covers band,' as it was called. The performance was taped and can be acquired at this wonderful blog.

After Strike Under broke up, Steve kept at it, forming Breaking Circus in 1983. Their first gig was at the Cubby Bear, back when they would regularly book punk bands. They released The Very Long Fuse EP in 1985, and Steve Albini designed the cover art. It's very much an '80s record, sort of like post-punk plus folk plus drum machine (later, when the band relocated to Minneapolis, the drummer's spot was taken by Todd Trainer, who you probably know as the drummer for Albini's Shellac). Famously includes '(Knife in the) Marathon,' which is one of the catchiest songs ever. I defy you not to get it stuck in your head.

For the hell of it, I also put up a single that Mr. Bjorklund did in the late '80s, after the demise of Breaking Circus. It was put out under the band's name, but appears to be only Steve and a drum machine. The A-side is a very bare take on Naked Raygun's 'Home of the Brave,' and the other is a UK Subs song, again quite transformed by Bjorklund's arrangement. I'm pretty certain it's out of print.

Tomorrow morning I just will not get up [1981]
An unidentified third-world athlete was wrestled to the ground by security [1985]
Jeanie walks out on the home of the brave [1989]

This Heat - Made Available: Peel Sessions [1977]

This album is a good introduction to This Heat, if you haven't heard Deceit already (which I recommend seeking out). Made Available consists of two 1977 BBC sessions done with the incomparable John Peel, who dug the band's bridging of krautrock sonics, world musics (before that term was pillaged of all meaning), tape magics, pioneering electronics, 'truly' jagged rhythms, and subversive politics. These guys were way ahead of their time, as evinced by the body of work they had produced by the year of 1977, when most people were making a bigger deal about 'White Riot' (which, much as I like it, sounds like 'classic rock' compared to this).

The standout songs on here are 'Horizontal Hold' (superior to the version on their first LP, in my opinion), 'The Fall of Saigon,' and the early version of 'Makeshift Swahili,' which would be laid down again on the aforementioned Deceit.

I dunno, this music is all over the place. It is the ultimate '77 punk record insofar as it sounds so unique. But enough of my incoherent babbling, try it out yourself.

Buy the 2006 UK CD/LP edition on discogs
Buy the 1996 UK CD edition on discogs
Buy Made Available on Amazon
We ate the TV

Monday, January 9, 2012

Barn Owl - Lost in the Glare [2011]

Here's one from 2011 that I have just recently starting getting into. This album was the perfect soundtrack to my night drive up the length of Indiana: dark, brooding, a bit creepy (a particularly manic and noisy passage started up right as I was passing through a field of wind turbines -- which, in the darkness, appear as devilish rows of pulsing red orbs -- scary stuff), simultaneously cosmic and earthen. Barn Owl's foreboding, finger-picked intertwining guitars ride on the drifting keyboards in a manner reminiscent of Ash Ra Tempel, and especially Manuel Göttsching's solo stuff. It's drone-y but hardly unexciting; on the contrary, in the right setting this album is positively cerebral. Your assessment of the album art is in this case a pretty good indicator of  how you will feel about the music. Barn Owl have put out a slew of albums and EPs since 2007 or so, and what portion of their work I've heard has been consistently good. Highly recommended.

Buy Lost in the Glare on Thrill Jockey
The darkest night since 1683