The Budos Band has probably been the odd man out but the group’s rendition of Afro-soul continues to stand out from that of the rest of the world. The NY outfit has just released its new EP, Frontier’s Edge (Diamond West Records) and after almost two decades, is doing it themselves. The band has always capitalized on its steady and infectious rhythms which are accentuated by horns & guitars vying for dominance. To get a full idea of that, the opening title track gives its perspective in that way but “Devil Doesn’t Dance” moves differently, swaying in the wind along deep bass lines, keyboard swaths, with an abundance of horns blaring. But it’s “Passage To Ashinol” that seems to have so much going on throughout it. Its bassline works tightly with keyboards and atmospheric horns to prove the band is on some next-level shit. If you don’t know Budos Band, pick up Frontier’s Edge and hear for yourself how it stands apart from the rest through its instrumental works.
There are groups that have weathered time and sometimes return sporadically and quietly releasing a few albums. No wave post-punk outfit the Bush Tetras have been recording and performing since 1979. While the lineup has shifted throughout the decades, Vocalist Cynthia Sley and guitarist Pat Place have remained at the very core and essence of the group. For the group’s fourth full-length release, They Live in My Head (Wharf Cat Records), they’ve enlisted drummer Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth) and bassist Cait O’Riordan (The Pogues, Elvis Costello). Sonically, the album delivers a full frontal assault on the senses, swathed in distortion and guitar dissonance. Guitars sometimes echo in the distance as ever nuance is dissected from the pounding rhythm. The Bush Tetras might be a throwback to a time all but forgotten but the band remains a force to be reckoned with.
ACID JACKSON – GOOD GRIEF
When things slap, they slap without remorse and leave this world completely oblivious to how its presence changed how many of us see and hear art. The Good Grief EP isn’t the first release by SoCal’s Acid Jackson, the duo of emcee Illistic and production wizard Ill2lectual The Sound Cultivator, but I’m sure it won’t be the last. While it is considered an EP’s worth of material, it includes eight songs and four interludes and hits with the fire of 1,000 abstract suns.
Musically, Acid Jackson takes chances moving across crafty analog beats with Illistic’s sick prose. “Refusal To Play” begins with cooing backing vocals over spacey keystrokes before Ill chimes in with direct reflections that maneuver between being a prisoner and creating art in a strange and unjust society. The song slides around varying realities and “OBSRVTN” moves in the same manner but this time its deliver is much more poignant and direct, as Illistic’s words flow with ease, following the grooves of Ill2lectual’s record stock.
Tagging along for the ride is Blueprint & Carnage The Executioner on the much more direct “No Location.” The trio moves with more “no direction” prose rather than location. But this is only one interpretation as Carnage’s words finds him relying on self rather than others. It’s “Mr. Jackson” though that has Illistic fitting his words around Ill2lectual’s scattershot beats that seem to come together to make sense in the end. It’s trippy and wild how he seemingly combines more than one rhythm but it all fits neatly together. Then comes “Evenin To Evenin” which features Columbus, OH wordsmith Illogic. A triple Ill-factor if you will, with a hypnotic groove that festers its way into the subconscious as Illogic and Illistic spit their prose around it.
Good Grief goes way beyond the expected as Illistic’s laid-back delivery is captivating over Ill2lectual’s creative mixes. It’s difficult not to fall in love with the art AJACKS creates here and will leave you wanting much more, waiting to see what comes next.
GODSPEED – A TRIBUTE TO PIERRE KEZDY
Hesitancy isn’t a normal word, it’s a noun but sometimes takes the form of an adjective and maybe even a verb. Do I find the English language complicated at times? Of course I do, as well as the other couple of languages I have a hold on but have never mastered. With that said, there was hesitancy to throw on this new compilation of cover songs, a nod, an ode, to the memorable and resilient post-punk outfit, Naked Raygun.
GODSPEED: A Tribute To Pierre Kezdy (Big Minnow Records), the former bassist for Pegboy, Strike Under, Arsenal, Trial By Fire, as well as Naked Raygun. Kezdy passed away of cancer back in 2020. Since the 90s, Naked Raygun tracks have remained timeless and now, we revisit them through the eyes of others. Hot Water Music takes the lead with the frenetic assault of “Wonder Beer,” as dual guitars project a wall of sonic rhythm, accented by drums & bass as signature gruff vocals and unison backing vocals collide against one another. Ok, now we have something to start with! Chicago’s The Usuals follow things up with the harmonious “Soldiers Requiem,” which continues the bombast with an assorted amount of vocal harmonies and chugging guitars. But it’s the Swingin’ Utter$’ version of “Gear” that I keep bouncing back to. The rolling drums against the tribal warfare of the clashing background vocals keeps everything in check. It’s a magnificent display of rough working man voices organizing like a union marching together.
Seminal punk band Face To Face heralds in the refreshing “I Don’t Know,” which the band makes its own. It packs a powerful punch with overdubbed vocals, catchy melodies, and a tempting rhythm that’s unrelenting. But it seems no one truly makes it their own more than J. Robbins himself with “Got Hurt.” His signature guitar work and recognizable voice, literally challenge Naked Raygun’s musical landscape with a sonically diverse rhythm provided by Darren Zentek (Kerosene 454, Channels) and bassist Brooks Harlan (War On Women). Of course, the backing, distant vocals is what’s seriously noticeable and just to the barrage of guitar attack. Pegboy, another group Kezdy once performed in with a 13-year stint, takes a stab at “Vanilla Blue” with optimal effect. The track begins, much like a spaghetti western, eventually morphing into a monstrosity of punk enthusiasm. The effort is high, the delivery is perfect as vocals wrap around melodies uttered by instruments. Many have disregarded the Bollweevils as some shticky punk band but that’s always been far from the case. As the group takes on “I Remember,” it shows they are not to be fucked with. The chorus itself here will have you turning a side eye with a “WTF?” look on your face. They hit the melody at record speed and never let go of it.
GODSPEED: A Tribute To Pierre Kezdy is a surprise, filled with 14 cover songs by groups that turn Naked Raygun songs upside down but keep the songs viable and fresh. I’m not sure if things get any better than this.
DAMON LOCKS & ROB MAZUREK – NEW FUTURE CITY RADIO
Every time you think the insanity cannot sustain the weight of artistry for artistry’s sake, that proverbial monkey wrench is tossed directly at your face. The great Patches O’Houlihan once offered, “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball,” but this is one wrench you may want to fully find yourself jumping directly in front of. Where are we heading? What is ‘reason’? Well, reason is tossed directly out on its ass here and rides no deliberate wavelengths to follow anything or anyone.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, Chicago musicians Damon Locks (Black Monument Ensemble) and Rob Mazurek (Exploding Star Orchestra) have partnered up for New Future City Radio (International Anthem), an experiment in sound defies categorization. While the two have worked together in the past, this is their first collaborative album where we find Locks’s penchant for varying extremes of electronics & loops, a pastiche of sounds that are derivative only unto itself…or himself while Mazurek, bleeds in with majestic trumpeting. Tracks range anywhere from 18 seconds to 9 minutes plus, but no matter how brief, each and every song is relatable as they blare through the speakers of your favorite boombox or, um, ghettoblaster.
Beats and rhythms are entrancing, much like on the dirty analog take of “The Sun Returns,” which seems to be fitted with melodies riding on top of other melodies. The song is seemingly on the edge of toppling and collapsing over its own weight but never does. It’s masterful. It’s soon followed by “Breeze Of Time” where noisy percussion is layered underneath Mazurek’s swelling horns and layered vocals, evaporating slowly into darkness. But it’s the brief “Your Name Gonna Ring The Bell” that sounds oddly familiar, as Locks’ collage of samples, which may or may not include Jellybean Benitez’s “The Mexican” lays firmly underneath Mazurek’s scattered horns. It’s on “Droids!” though where we hear each one perfectly positioning their instruments as Locks’ layering is complimented by Mazurek’s wildly exuberant trumpet, caressing the atmosphere.
If there’s anything you may find yourself referring back to time and time again, it just might be “Flitting Splits Reverb Addage,” where those repetitive spellbound keyboard notes are accentuated amongst the cheerful samples of playful children. And repeats, but then finds peace within shifting melodies. Oh how it slides along psyches with Locks’ spoken prose. But whether you find comfort within the epic “Twilight Shimmer” or the soulful “Polaris Radio,” it won’t matter considering you’ll find yourself draped in all of the duo’s sublime glory.
New Future City Radio offers a wide array of uncharted beauty, and while the duo may have its own contemporaries out there, in 2023, none stand above Locks & Mazurek. This recording is the epitome of creativity without boundaries. Take this opinion for what it is and if you disagree, just know that you’re wrong.