MELOMANIA turns it up to 11!
with eleven reviews across the spectrum for you!
THE CLASH AND RANKING ROGER - "Rock The Casbah/Red Angel Dragnet" [7"](SONY UK)
With the "Combat Rock/The People's Hall" hitting shelves today, the real Clash feast is this import-only 7" single of a pair of "Combat Rock" favorites appearing in more spartan mixes with Ranking Roger toasting joyously above it. "Combat Rock" (and its companion) are synonymous with Jones and Strummer being at odds with each other. Still, these two songs on the album do a magnificent job of balancing their tension to capture their creative sparks. As "The People's Hall" material (or "Rat Patrol" - after the 2013 bootleg) was shaping up in West London, Roger came on stage with The Clash to toast on versions of Willie Williams's "Armagideon Time" and Junior Murvin's "Police and Thieves." Naturally, once their tracks had some bounce - someone had the good sense to invite Roger over. "Rock The Casbah" has always been a busy song in the Clash canon (that dated digital watch.) On the Roger version, the mix is lithe and light. The dance groove drives it hard in the beginning, then lets off at the chorus where every nuance of the rubbery Funk-saturated bassline of Paul Simonon bolts out. From here, Roger circles around the guitar strikes and the basic elements of the track until his wordless syllabic burst feels like pure bliss. "Red Angel Dragnet" selects Kosmo Vinyl's Cockney declaration "I come from a long way away" for its first reverberated burst of Dub goodness. Roger again surrounds the facets of the Reggae lilt, but his bobbing and weaving around the organ fills with the sizzle of the effects-laden stepping razor beat is just as intoxicating.
Why this is not on the aforementioned release is beyond us - one of the best finds of 2022.
GENTLE SINNERS - These Actions Cannot Be Undone [LP/CD](Rock Action SCO)
Fans of the Arab Strap are sure to love the Scottish visceral/minimal EDM drone of Gentle Sinners. Helped by Twilight Sad's James Graham who intones in his thick brogue - as he says "this is messy business." The stunner "Date & Sign" opens like a Hip-Hop song. Twinkling piano a la Eminem and a big unquantized beat puts the hi-hat pull right in your face. Behind it, Gentle Sinners sweetly unfold a love letter in hopes of good news ("Why can't you see/Why can't you see me") only to discover sinking fortunes and lost hope. Not even a quietly bowed viola can save the singer's romantic fate as the track purrs along. So, the noise wall is erected to absorb the blows and he returns angry and dejected. This is a haunting collaboration that can only be compared to early Tricky. However, its mood is different. "Rent Free" rumbles on its tom figure and hidden synth line. "Shores of Anhedonia" is abrasive ("breaking my teeth in my sleep") yet oddly soothing as the duo moves through a variety of melodies, spoken word confessions, and cosmic shifts. Like all albums that demand your attention, it takes a moment to crank up. When "Let It Rot" bellows like a wounded machine, the recording of AKG - a/k/a his son - exposes the humanity that leads us all to want to be heard.
WHITNEY K - Hard To Be A God EP [LP](Maple Death CAN)
Exceeding the promise of his 2021 record "Two Years," Whitney K turns the travelogue that was the previous album into a mixture of Cosmic American Music and the wild pulse of New York in the 1960s. "Hard To Be A God" is like a Country song with the John Cale-era Velvets playing in the background. "Not Unlike A Rock" opens with a bongo line, and bendy guitar, and then takes its swishy Psychedelic groove into the skies. Whitney's vocals are a lot of mellifluous narration and Lou Reed-ish growl ("Two Strangers.") His guitar work is Sterling. With so little instrumentation, the guitars generally propel the songs and even register several wallops of solos. At a scant five songs, "Hard To Be A God" ends too soon. However, cutting down the sprawl of "Two Years" to his best 22 minutes yet was the wisest decision of all. Whitney only sounds like he's some kind of Western rambler (the Townes-like opening to the closing hymn "Song For A Friend") but in all honesty, this sparkling record leaves us wanting to follow him anywhere.
THE MARY VEILS - Esoteric Hex [LP/CD](PNKSLM SWE)
This fearsome Philadelphia foursome pulls out all the stops on their Garage record. While they have all the Ty Segall-esque hooks set to slay (the title track,) The Mary Veils actually maximalize their Rock song. Starting with the thunderous near-Metal gallop-meets-Monkees-harmonies on "Bone Blossom Green," they fit a multitude of sounds into their songs. "Circled Omens" waltzes its way from "Magical Mystery Tour" to a huge din a la "Slaughterhouse." Their songs are well-composed on that Osees style front where the hooks howl ("A Tether" and the ridiculous punch of "Jelly") but with no real space between the four of them, their grooves are dense. Finally, when they slow it down for a "ballad," the vocal mic is more overdriven than ever on "Eyes" and the whole swirling chorus nearly tears the song apart. An exciting debut.
WILMA VRITRA - Grotto [LP/CD](Bad Taste/Fat Beats)
Slow-but-funky Hip-Hop is a fantastic environment for rappers to take on their ever-changing moods. VRITRA has a great low-key flow. On the brilliant “One Under,” he rolls out some Kendrick-ian confessions. However, as he moves around the beats more sleepy-eyed than most - you get the feeling this came to him in a dream. Freestyle-or-free association? “Grotto” leaves you hoping you never know. Along with VRITRA’s sure-footed but underplayed rapping, Wilma Archer continues to do what they do best - make entrancing and never predictable music. Fretless bass and clarinet duke it out on “Clean Me Clean.” '“If Possible” swells with Gospel samples and a stop that is like a hop-step in a slow second-line march. A few years ago, Wilma Archer and VRITRA did this in a more lo-fi manner on “Burd.” However, like Wilma Archer’s still-amazing slow jam “Decades” (with Laura Groves and Samuel T. Herring) they prosper with fewer instruments expanded to capture Technicolor majesty. Their best ideas sound like samples. The soulful “Every Evening” adds a sharp classical guitar to make its mix really hum, and the strings throughout have a way of making “Grotto” poignant.
STROPPIES - Levity [LP/CD](Tough Love UK)
Melbourne’s Stroppies have released several blazing singles that were all about immediacy. However, it has been a long time since the still awesome “It’s a Hit!” Having survived the stress of a debut album and the whole on/off/on lockdown syndrome, “Levity” is one that really needs to grow on you. “Levity” is a difficult record because they purposefully slow down (or soften, for that matter) the jangle of “Whoosh!” and “Look Alive.” That is the key. “Smilers Strange Politely” parks itself halfway between Go-Betweens and a perkier Young Marble Giants. “Levity” strikes us as an exercise to exceed their limitations by actually doing the fabled more with less. Normally, using a keyboard could arouse some kind of naive charm. The Eighties drive of “Caveats” makes Stroppies sound like they actually want to be another band. The aforementioned charm comes from the lyrics where the nihilistic “Heaven is a dumpster where ideas go to die” both rings true and strangely sweet. “Levity” needs a lot of time to wind around you as its best songs are not designed to dazzle you with structure and hooks (no worries, they still have them - the Wire-like “Tricks on Everything” even works from we will dub “anti-hooks.”) In short, these are tracks that need to uncoil. “Butchering The Punchline” delivers its sparkling chord progression first, and then slows down to hit single notes of the roots. As it winds back around to a brief reprise of the powerful chord progression, it stops again to switch to single notes. However, this time they made the chords, and when those internal notes hit you it is thrilling. In the beginning, “Levity” can feel so formless. Here are The Stroppies sounding almost lethargic (which again, is understandable.) Underneath their atoms of structure (the shimmer/splintering of “Figure Eights,”) The Stroppies are forcing themselves into weird places - and bringing us along with them. A textbook grower.
MATMOS - Regards/Uklony Dla Boguslaw Schaffer [LP/CD](Thrill Jockey/Redeye)
Drew Daniel and MC Schmidt tend to be at their best when they embrace the chaos for what it is. “Regards” is a delightfully strange record. Equal parts Negativland and Throbbing Gristle. The way “Cobra Waves Shuffle” spills into gated synths, a phantom hum, and a dub beat played against a South American rhythm demand the guidance of its disjointed airport narrator. Matmos were granted unlimited access to the library of Polish experimental musician Boguslaw Schaffer. “Flashcube Fog Wares” does not resemble a composition on its noisy streaking surface. However, when you reassemble the gurgles, crashes, bleats, whines, and more - it could be scored and handed over to a string orchestra or even a symphony to play.
AUDIO OBSCURA/BLACK SONAR - A Scream From Outer Space [LP/CD](Subexotic UK)
Like Public Service Broadcasting, these experimental musicians/synthesists from England and Italy tell the story of the Voyager probe venturing into unknown worlds beyond our own. Quiet and meditative, “A Scream From Outer Space” creates several meditative audio textures while overlaying sounds and dialogue that maintain their narrative. The opener “Swimming In The Dust” and “Pulsar” have so much to teach us, that you have to take it all in at once. In the meantime, “The Asteroid Belt” gurgles like British Library music alternate a twinkling piano melody with some atonal strikes. While the final three tracks are designed for you to get as lost in as those probes still racing into new atmospheres.
METAL! METAL! METAL!
LUMINOUS VAULT - Animate The Emptiness [LP/CD](Profound Lore/The Orchard)
Brooklyn’s Black Metal duo Luminous Vault takes a haunting Gothic turn on their version of it. “Animate The Emptiness” is most reminiscent of the early Christian Death. Their tracks seem to ooze out of the speakers. The bending, wavering basslines can make you dizzy. With their Electronics and EDM front-and-center, any Nine Inch Nails comparisons are fathomable - but their deepening din manages to dive leagues deeper. “Incarnate Flame Arise” toys with the tenets of Black Metal. The guitar lines alternate between guttural lows and speed-picking hits. In between, the haunted chorus-drenched arpeggiated chording (“Divine Transduction”) could be found on The Cure’s “Pornography.” Luminous Vault’s music is thick with pounding electronic drums (the breaks and weird fills on “Invoke Radiant Gleam” make the track sound like no other.) “Animate The Emptiness” is subterranean Black Metal - bleak and miles deep but oddly radiant in its own dark manner.
BOG BODY - Cryonic Crevasse Cult [LP/CD](Profound Lore/The Orchard)
Like Sludge-meets-Black Metal, is hypnotic yet demonic. The duo quickly proves that they have a wholly different idea of how the Captain Howdy grunt and bashing drums should mix. The secret seems to be in guitars and bass that are tuned so low, that they rattle against the pickup. “Paralytic Pit of Swallowed Graves” regularly uses the percussive sound (and the way it can sound clipped) to spin their hellish downward spiral songwriting beyond everyone else. At its best, Bog Body rage free rein in a variety of tempos on “Ice Stained Kurgan.” There are several moments where the wobbling strings on the bass find notes that are likely so beneath the staff they fell off the page. In addition, their songs are very concise while joining Sludge, Black Metal, and even Doom into their own center-of-the-earth-bound Metal.
DARKTHRONE - The Underground Resistance [LP](Peaceville/The Orchard)
After two straight triumphs (2019’s “Old Star” and last year’s best Metal album” Eternal Hails……,”) 2013’s “The Underground Resistance” is back again. Here is Darkthrone forming the next phase of their chainmail-tough, razor-riffing sound. First, the mix here is different than modern Darkthrone. Vocals are way upfront, followed by well-miked drums, thus putting the guitar in the distance. The effect is their volcanic riffing on either the NWOBHM/Thrash style opener “Dead Early” or the first majestic Sludge portion of “Valkyrie” (before it soars into double-kick King Diamond territory) sound monolithic. Like all great Black Metal, the guitars wash over you until they stop to crank out headbanging melodic chording. Fourteen minutes of “Leave No Cross Unturned” is so giant from its guitar thunder and vocal acrobatics, when it crosses the finish line - you are exhausted. This is Modern Metal at its best as (like Metal today) it seeks to combine Proto, NWOBHM, Thrash, Death, Speed, Doom, and Black subgenres into one brilliant battering ram. Darkthrone ascended to the throne on “The Underground Resistance.” Since it only gets better, and the duo remains alarmingly consistent - Darkthrone is the pinnacle of today’s vast ocean of Metal.
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