Dead Horses, a three-piece experimental cowpunk band from the Ferrara province in Italy, have nailed deconstructed blues. Their new track “No Wahala” from Ballad For Loser is like Keiji Haino’s Black Blues gone country. The group's three players—Agnese, Zufux, and Mauro—employ a minimal drum kit, an acoustic guitar, and an electric guitar—that’s it—but simple instrumentation in no way indicates simple composition. In the song, a plodding rhythm propels spindly, precise guitar work as incanted vocals float atop the track’s aggressive swagger. Dead Horses have been called the Italian Butthole Surfers more than a few times, though it's less about their exact sound than, as they say, their "mix of influences and live show." Which is to say, if you like the Butthole Surfers, you will probably like this. (As for "influences," no, I would not rule out the influence of drugs.)
Swet Shop Boys is the duo of former Das Racist member Heems and actor/rapper Riz Ahmed or Riz MC. Last October they released their first full-length album, Cashmere, made in collaboration with British producer Redinho. The album drew influence from the Sufi devotional music Qawwali, a genre which is popular across India and Pakistan, and often uses hedonistic themes as a metaphor for spiritual longing. The spirit of Qawwali, which bridges the gap between politically divided communities, serves as an inspiration for the the album highlight “Aaja,” which features Pakistani singer Ali Sethi, as well as the track’s new video. Directed by Sofian Kahn, the video is at once playful and sweet, showing a teen cycling between Flushing and Coney Island (home to large Indian and Pakistani populations respectively) to flyer for an upcoming Swet Shop Boys show, all while nursing a crush. The video concludes with a sample from Qandeel Baloch, a Pakistani internet celebrity and activist who was the victim of an “honor killing,” to whom the video is dedicated.
There’s a venerable tradition of documenting a day in song—but what if this process could be automated? How can you document a moment or day in a way that is smoothed out of the messiness of personal experience? DC punks and Priests affiliates Flasher offer such an attempt on “Winnie,” the A-side to their upcoming 7”. “Winnie” recalls a motel breakfast in Winnie, Texas last May, intercutting verbatim quotations from news coverage of the Egypt Air Flight 804 with pharmaceutical advertisements heard on the TV that day. It’s a song that luxuriates in the weird, improbable sentiments created by juxtaposing the two source texts, and their uncanny effectiveness as pop lyrics—“these feet want to keep the beat moving,” taken from a diabetes medication commercial, is just one of many ear wormy hooks the track features. The track itself is riff-fueled post-punk joyride, sounding like something off an early Mission of Burma single; off-kilter but enthused with a deft pop sensibility. Flasher describe the track as a “bricolage tribute to the paranoia-fueled auto erotic American psyche,” but the song works just as well as a catchy-as-hell rave up.
Mouth Mouth, the latest full-length transmission from New Zealand's Yeongrak, is infernal to the teeth. Swathed in contorted melodies, skeletal percussion, and incinerating distortion, the cryptic producer's latest interrogates the limits of what is sonically tolerable, shunting effect upon effects to create its hellish soundscape. Throughout much of the record, from the dully thumping opener, "ape rottin'" to the punishingly impenetrable closer, "shouldnt have a light fixture there anywy," Yeongrak shrouds the growls, burbles, and the palpitating beats in a thick saliva of filtration and mutilation. And like saliva, this distortion corrodes the structures, instruments, and voices trapped within its inexorable viscosity. Occasionally, Yeongrak swallows this strangulating spit, allowing the distortion to dissipate. At its most lucid, on cuts like "firstname.lastname@example.org" and "bandagey eggroll," a fractal, gurgling landscape irrupted by shards of shrieks, squelches, and synth stabs comes into focus. As infuriating as it is irresistable, Mouth Mouth has gnawed its way into becoming one of the most bizarre and rewarding releases of 2017.
On their art-damaged cassette War & War, Outside World mix a love of the deep groove with an experimental outlook. While there are certainly moments of classic pop songwriting (i.e., a penchant for summoning the catchy), a lot of War & War’s power comes from riding the tight line between atmosphere and tight, hypnotic cacophony. It would be a far cry to call Outside World noise, but there is certainly an influence from that realm, as well as jazz. On “Nothing Is Selected,” something close to a scarred pop banger, the group utilizes recurring motifs and sounds to establish a whirlwind effect, an effect made all the more apparent in their video, in which the commonplace and the repetitive metamorphosize into something uncanny and disorienting.
War & War is out now via Outside World's Bandcamp.
Diet Cig have shared a second single from their upcoming debut full length, Swear I’m Good At This. With a title that sums up how one comes to regard their birthday with each successive year, “Barf Day” catalogs a series of disappointments on one lonely such day. The song is structured like a snowball tumbling down a ski slope, building in momentum and frustration, until vocalist and guitarist Alex Luciano drops all pretenses and declares that she just want to have ice cream on her birthday. The pay off to the build up is a triumphant half-time coda, where an overdubed chorus of Lucianos provide a cascading counterpoint to her confessional, confectionary mantra.
DC-native Eva Moolchan makes what she describes as “violent vibes” under the moniker of Sneaks. She first drew people’s ears in 2015 when she released Gymnastics on Priests' label, Sister Polygon. On it, Sneaks channeled the groovier, artier edge of early New York punk with a preternatural ear for brevity. Merge caught on and signed her, reissuing Gymnastics last year in anticipation of her new material. “Hair Slick Back” is the second single from her forthcoming record, It’s a Myth. With a bassline worthy of ESG, the song rides an irresistible groove as Moolchan delivers a tense, terse lyric belied by her double tracked, deadpan vocals.
Alabama label Noumenal Loom is definitely no stranger to a humid, absurd realist approach to electronica, having worked with an international cast of good-humored gothic artists like Foodman, Giant Claw, and DJ Voilà. Taking inspiration from swampy folk and electronic exotica, Jasper Lee's Mirror of Wind's is the label's latest. Lee has composed film scores as well as video projects; he also invented the Pyraharp, a plucked string instrument that resembles an upside down endtable. With this new collection of songs, Lee imaginatively creates a realm that seems fantastic and nostalgic, and then he writes its soundtracks. The result is new-age, primitivist plunderphonics in a similar tradition to Belbury Poly or Plantasia. Over a landscape of whooshing trees, cawing birds, and delicate, unidentifiable instruments, a mystery story seems to emerge. Quietly sung over spacious, saloon shuffles in some parts, and improvised with gleeful jazz riffs in others, the plotless journeys within Mirror of Wind are curious and enigmatic, like an unidentified reel of home recordings discovered in a barn. Tracks like "Veil of Crocus" and "Bamboo Shack" best showcase this in short bursts. They are not merely interludes though, but imaginative vignettes that move the album forward. Other numbers, like "Quaint Gothic Spring," are more like dour Western ballads than abstract New Age works, but still blend modern and nostalgic myths and images. As the album unfolds, more instances of magic and suspense appear, drawing the listener in further.
Mirror of Wind is out March 3 via Noumenal Loom. You pre-order it now.
Jay Som, the project of multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Melina Duterte, has released the third single from her forthcoming debut record. Previous singles from the album, Everybody Works, have encompassed a variety of styles, demonstrating the depth of understanding Duterte has for music and song craft. “The Bus Song” is a slow burner ballad that drew inspiration from the guitar-oriented pop of the early ‘00s, while “1 Billion Dogs" is a power pop by way of shoegaze gem. “Baybee,” the latest track we’ve heard from the record, is a perfectly constructed pop song, using an off kilter, new wave-influenced backing track as the basis for a hook so strong it could be on a Cardigan’s record. The accompanying video, directed by Charlotte Hornsby and Jesse Ruuttila, finds Jay Som and company dancing in a skiing resort. The main shot fixates on the group riding the lift up to the top of the slope, seemingly without the pay off of skiing back down. It provides a satisfying parallel to the song itself—beneath the song’s slick, bright melodies is a reflection on a commitment to care for someone in a way that is detrimental to one’s self. There’s no pay off to the work beyond the sense that one is still moving.
On her third album as Pharmakon, Brooklyn artist Margaret Chardiet explores the relationships between humans and their bodies and the bodies of others, and how our self-conceptions mediate these relationships. On “No Natural Order,” the second single from Contact, Chardiet takes aim at a pervasive assumption underlying our understanding of the self—that we are ordained, either by nature or by divinity, to be stewards of the world around us. The track is built around a throbbing synth pattern and a slamming drum hit which demarcates every other bar; a seemingly logical pattern that that is progressively undermined by clattering sounds and shivering electronic buzzes. Chardiet’s vocals, delivered with all the contempt merited by the violence endemic to a belief that the mastery over our world is our birthright, affirm that humanity is not, in fact exceptional. We are merely, she argues, “animals, lost in a confused dream / where Mankind is real, / and at the center of everything.”