I’m moving. In a positive direction that is. There’s no time for hate, unless it’s truly warranted that is. The thought of letting things fester and build to the point of eruption just seems like a waste of time and energy. I’ve just had so much of that forced into my direction that every positive word I’ve heard in my lifetime seemed to dissipate and eject itself from my core being. Who needs that? Not me. I think I’ve been fortunate in that most artists I’ve dealt with have been pretty “cordial” with me and don’t reserve that right just for their friends. Even when I’ve annoyed some artists I’ve come to know moderately, they’re harsh words to me are usually tongue-in-cheek. But hey, it’s just life. I won’t bore you with the rest of my usual rhetoric so instead I’ll just mention that I’ve been spending the better part of this week listening to the new album by Dr. Octagon, Moosebumps: An Exploration into Modern Day Horripilation’ which sees Bronx emcee Kool Keith reunited with Dan The Automator and Kid Koala. Nope, all I did was listen to it because let’s be honest, how can one be biased for a Doc Oc release? It just isn’t happening. No one needs to read another review of a fucking banger. Regardless, let’s get to it.
Now rarely do I receive a release and pay much attention to the press sheet that’s included, with the obligatory “RIYL” portion that finds the lazy comparisons to artists of the same ilk. Nah duke, I can’t flow that way, especially after listening to the new Honey And Salt self-titled debut (Spartan Records) which I’m sure a number of intricacy enthusiasts would enjoy. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy it, with its consistent rhythms that take listeners into multiple directions, and quick-fingered, almost frantic, guitar work. The Austin, TX trio, Wade Allen (guitar/vocals), Austin Sears (bass/vocals), and Benjamin Sams (drums/vocals), is capable of doing one thing though, and that’s making the album sound almost bigger than life. And that’s just the first three songs! On “Myths” the band seems to relax a bit more, but not by much, opening the song with a pummeling punk vibe but it’s spiced with the same intricacy previously mentioned without becoming so convoluted. “Simple Errors” is probably the closest the band gets to a pop song as it can, but also playing with dynamics as well as giving the illusion of playing with time signatures here. They craft the track cleverly with staccato guitars on top. Honey & Salt are more than capable here, and with the ensuing complexity imbued within every track, I haven’t found anything more hellish than listening to Don Caballero. That’s a good thing. Yes, I think comparisons are cheap but while both groups sound nothing alike, you get the idea.
Anyone that knows anything about music will probably be quick to gravitate to Charnel Ground and its self-titled release (12XU) given that the players here all have the pedigree to withstand any and all apocalyptic affronts. First, guitarist Chris Brokaw had a lengthy run with Thalia Zedek in Come, as well as a brief stint in Codeine. These were two bands that couldn’t be more different from one another. Kid Millions plays drums for experimentalists Oneida, also doubling as his solo effort, Man Forever. And James McNew? Well, he’s 1/3 and the bassist for indie stalwarts Yo La Tengo, has his own Dump, and sometimes plays bass live for Oneida. This instrumental three-headed hydra quickly grabs a hold of senses with its latest release and boy do they ever. Each member is well versed in the art of crafting noisy constructs and with Charnel Ground it all comes well into play. From the opening free-formed “Jimmy,” the band sets the tone exploring the infinite number of sounds it can fit into instruments. Kid Millions takes William Hooker approach, letting the other instruments lead him into his own cacophony of sound while Brokaw finds an unending amount of melody and noise in his guitar. All the while, McNew seemingly keeps it all together. These guys are just masters at their craft and “The High Price” shows it. This 10-minute plus opus of pulsating sounds, degenerating guitars and barrage of percussion liquifies everything in its path. But it’s not all fun and games with splatterings of noise and rhythms. Smack dead centre you’ll find the cheerful “Playa De Ticia,” which will have people wondering “Who’s Ticia?” and “What beach is she on?” It’s a beautiful number juxtaposed around the explorations of the other. One could probably say the same thing about “Skeleton Coast” where Brokaw & McNew’s instruments truly compliment one another while Kid holds it all together with precision. The three of them round it all off with an almost 18-minute jam session that’s part beauty and ugliness wrapped in together. It’s stepsisters seared together with the lovely sibling they hate to love, but in the end, she always rises to the top, not unlike the proverbial cream. With this release, the band takes a road less travelled and it’s ok because we’re all the better for it.
I tend to question many things, this being one of them. Is it odd that Moodie Black is top of minds in indie circles when it comes to the music created with the new album Lucas Acid (Fake Four Inc.)? While Moodie Black is known for being one of the new era of noise rap, a term that can be traced back anywhere from Public Enemy to dälek. For the past 12 years, they’ve worked in seminal obscurity but that’s all about to change. Fronted by Chris Martinez, a/k/a Kdeath, the life of Moodie Black just might be on the cusp of change. The focus around the new album seems to circle around Martinez’ coming out as transgender but, it shouldn’t be just about that because there’s an insurmountable number of things that this album contains. Instead, the life of Moodie Black should be different based on this fucking album. Given, K does deal with coming to terms with being a trans person throughout the release, as a whole, musically, Lucas Acid is brimming with noisy textured backdrops that ooze with darkness and solitude. On the opener “Vanowen feat. Pierre Ottron” K raps “I’m nervous as fuck where my life is…” but obviously there’s no more hiding behind facades and is reluctant to fall back into the shadows with the telling words, “There’s no way I’m down to be left out,” over a simple bassline before the dynamics drastically shift with overflowing noise, staticky keyboards/guitars and nary a drumbeat in sight. “Freedom” changes that here, adding distortion over K’s vocals on top of a sinister keyboard line humming through the song. The music on Lucas Acid is more abrasive than previous works I’ve listened to. Instead if eschewing dissonance, they embrace it, allowing its corrosiveness to become part of Moodie Black itself. The lines between Hip Hop and other genres have sometimes become so blurred it’s difficult to gauge where one begins and the other ends. “Screaming” kind of does that, as Moodie Black incorporates elements of noisy etherealness into the sound of the track. Yeah, Moodie Black really gives no fucks and it shows. Love them or hate them, Lucas Acid is clearly a moment in time, just one act in a continuous play, that leaves room for so much more to come.
There were expectations had heading into the debut self-titled album by MIEN, a group that includes members of the Horrors and Black Angels. But it’s that awkward moment when what you expect isn’t what you receive, although that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The band creates a ruckus that left me surprised. MIEN seems to be rooted in repetition, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing here. The band isn’t your standard drums-guitar-bass, as they opt for the inclusion of keyboards, samplers, loops, sitar, etc. which probably puts the band way ahead of the curve for 2018. The band shakes and rattles on the opening “Earth Moon” sounding like a spaced-jam version of Aerosmith, without the pretense of solos or over-the-top vocals, and all of the stormy rock-ness. “Black Habit” draws into uncharted waters, held together by a bass-end controlling the voyage through the stormy weather. The song’s quick crescendo never stresses or passes a point of no return, the band keeps it steady and wonderous. MIEN is fully capable of keeping listeners hypnotized like on “(I’m Tired of) Western Shouting” shows the band utilizing its percussive beats to full effect letting the song ride out for over 30 seconds before including other instruments, aside from the vocal play. The track is a head-nodding masterpiece that you’ll quickly find yourself going back to for the its clever use of dynamics throughout. Within many of the songs you’ll quickly realize the band’s use of the sitar, not simply as an intro to songs but blending the large instrument within the DNA of the music. “Ropes” captures it as its seamlessly heard going in and out of it. It’s not hard to fall in love with MIEN or the music they create on its debut, sometimes breathtaking and at others, spellbinding.