Sunday, October 31, 2021


Had an eventful Summer with the family and me relocating to Portland, OR. After a bit of a delay, the stereo is set up and the reviews are in...

Cured Pink - Current Climate [Ever/Never] 
If you recall, the early 2000s brought us the post-punk (ugh, hate that term) revival where—twenty years hence—everything from ‘79 to ‘82 was new again and many of the most popular indie bands of the day had some sort of roots in Joy Division or Gang of Four. Even though the most popular bands often weren’t all that good, they were still head and shoulders above what passed for “indie rock” a decade later. After listening to Current Climate, the fourth (and final?) Cured Pink record, I’m becoming irrationally confident that—twenty years hence—we’re heading for a post-punk revival revival. Cured Pink are too good to be popular, but if someone’s dropping the kind of grooves that are packed into this CD released by NYC’s Ever/Never, there’s bound to be some other lot of shitheads peddling the bland, watered down versions to greater acclaim and notoriety. 

The opening seconds are intriguing, slipping out like the impeccably coiffed offspring of early Simple Minds and the first Menomena album. There’s some PIL and Pop Group in the mix (though the lacerating histrionics of those crews have been quite tempered). This Heat stands out most as a historical guidepost, and not even because Cured Pink necessarily sound so much like them, but both groups are “band synthesizers” meaning that they pull a wide range of sounds, textures, rhythms and combine them unobtrusively, molded in a new form. The chilly bliss of “Sunshine”, a pint of Mutant Disco strut (“The Surveyor”) and shards of early Art of Noise-ish sampledelica and coy Flying Lizards-style strangeness all just make sense together, as smooth as peanut butter or shaving cream. “Another Urban Fox” brings heavy, spartan jazz-dub vibes, sounding like De Facto drained of its Latin influence to the point that they don’t actually sound like De Facto, I’m just experiencing a spiritual resonance between the two. 

I’ve spent more time name-dropping than describing the sounds, and this is actually a pretty lame review (even for me) but I keep listening to Current Climate and it keeps sending me spiraling off into inadvertent nostalgic meditations where I’m reminded that while everything new is actually old, everything old is always new. Make of that what you will as you listen along. 

Hatchery - Obscured by Foliage [Music for People] 
You may remember the skronkaphonic outfit Tiger Hatchery (or maybe you don’t), but this tigerless Hatchery is an entirely unrelated skronkaphonic outfit. It’s one of the many brainchildren of LDS-level musical procreator Max Nordile (Preening, Violence Creeps, Nothing Band and countless others) and if you’ve heard a single thing Max has done before you’ll recognize the uncoordinated, flailing limbs. Hatchery stands apart from Nordile’s “rock and roll” bands. More of an insomniac jazz vibe. Obscured by Foliage is possibly the work of an ensemble but I get the sense that this is Nordile hunched over the Tascam in the wee hours overdubbing detuned guitar, organ tones, sax wail, rattling bells, tom thumps... is that a cowbell? If you’re still listening to spraypainted Graveyards CD-rs in 2021 this creep jass is for you. 

Maximum Ernst - Perfect Mixer/Matchless Pair [Ever/Never] 
I believe I already rolled out the YS comparison when I reviewed Maximum Ernst’s debut 12” but if the shoe still fits... The lead off track “Open Table” on Perfect Mixer/Matchless Pair, the latest from these NYC skuzz skunks, takes me back to the early days of D. Yellow Swans action. Basking in noise, flirting with songcraft, with a weaponized drum machine and thumping bass loop thrusting your head in the toilet bowl. Multiple layers of drum machines figure prominently throughout the cassette, whether the shuffling hip hop groove of “Vanity Mirror Universe”, the entrancing stereo-panned klang of “Suspended Sentence” or the gallop-to-pummel trajectory of “Richard Motor Hits The Wall” which ends in strange, forbidden experiments being performed on an unsuspecting guitar. I can’t go before mentioning the 42-second bizarro interlude “DFCS” which Men’s Recovery Project must have forgotten to stick on their last 7”. All the fucked up children of the world, you know where to go. 

Morvern - Not What I Heard [ŠOP] 
Morvern is a Slovenian songwriter who, to my great pleasure, is often channeling the lo-fi pop of the late 80s/early 90s (there’s a song called “Balance Yr Heart” so this won’t come as a surprise). “Unspoken Words” is ‘the cut’ of the tape (so much so that I stuck it on a guest playlist). Really great angsty hooks volleying between thin production rambling along on a sputtering drum machine and a thick chorus of fuzz guitars. “Our Little Tribe” harbors the faintest echoes of Frank Black’s post-Pixies solo ballads. I love Frank Black so I don’t dole that comparison out willy nilly. Not What I Heard tends to sound best at quicker tempos like on the springy, c86-ish “Jesus Saves”. The slower tunes are a little more of a mixed bag, enjoying the psych slowburn of “Time” and Air-influenced “Kaleidoscope” but not vibing as much with the beachier offerings (“Lost Sun Gods” and “Eyes on Me”). But hey, never been a big fan of the beach so there you have it. Fun tape with some great tunes, check it out especially if you're a dunderhead like me when it comes to the Slovenian scene. 

Mustat Kalsarit - Yö [Cudighi] 
LA’s Cudighi Records has been killing it as of late having dropped a deeply affecting cassette of instrumentals by Dan Melchior, two quality “songwriter” albums from complete opposite ends of the spectrum by Psuedo Desnudo and Seth Thomas and this burner of a tape by Finland’s Mustat Kalsarit. If you had handed me in the form of a tattered LP with a photo of some longhairs with unkempt mustaches somewhere on the jacket, I’d have sworn it was an undiscovered private press gem with no more than 69 copies populating the globe. But it’s not! Incredibly, it was recorded somewhere in Finland during the 21st century. And you don’t have to lay down five benjamin franklins to snag a copy! The sweetest win of all. 

Absolutely gorgeous spitting fuzztone, the inimitable cadence of (often call & response) Finnish lyrics—naturally, incomprehensible to these provincial ears—well-grounded songwriting, dual guitar leads really stretching out those octave pedals, the record is a wonder. So simple but so rare. What’s the secret Mustat Kalsarit? You’ve practically solved the mystery of the universe here. 

It feels a bit strange picking out individual numbers because they’re all so good. ’s tapestry is woven seamlessly with lovely psychedelic drag-outs and raving mad Nuggets-esque rockers but the driving, bummed-out synth-lead hypnosis of “Elää Vaan” really stands apart. Top to bottom, this is a primo fucking album. I’m hooked. I’m going to have a hell of a time tracking down the Mustat Kalsarit Finnish-released back catalog but I’m committed. Time to talk to my wife about planning a long overdue trip to Finland. Recommended! 

Noise - Tenno [Moone] 
I got a lot of weird shit in my home music library and I’m damn proud of it, but I don’t have anything that sounds like this record Tenno by the appropriately christened Noise. The first time through, my honest reaction was “what the fuck was that?” a rare occurrence for these jaded ears. The recording sounds like crap but in a mysterious way that begged me to dive back in. After many more listens, do I understand this record? No. Can I explain this record? Hell no! But when it’s on the turntable it reshapes your living room or your basement or wherever your turntable happens to be. The light looks different. Your brain works differently. Is your brain working? You don’t actually know. Are you even alive right now? Come to think of it, you’re not sure. I was not hip to Tenno’s presence on this rock hurtling through space but apparently it’s Japanese, it’s from 1980 and lunatics pay hundreds of dollars to get their hands on a copy. Moone Records has come along and made this record available to the non-lunatic portion of the populace surely in need of its inimitable charms.  

Ignoring what all the youtube tutorials tell you about signal-to-noise ratio and taking their moniker to heart, Tenno sounds like the group set the mics up on the far end of the room and cranked up the preamp to make up the difference. The result is a sonic temple with horrid acoustics, but sub-standard aural architecture never stopped devoted believers before. I imagine a non-religious person might say Tenno is the closest thing they’ve had to a religious experience. Droning organ and voice, guitar (though I'm not sure I've ever picked it out) and occasional drumming create a vortex of maddening dissonance and unparalleled blistered beauty.

What is this record? The only loose reference point I can provide, dear reader, is the feeling of the two seconds of audio before the Lady in the Radiator opens her mouth to sing “In Heaven”, but an entire album. And come on, if you’re not the least bit tickled to find out what that experience is like for yourself, are you even alive right now? 

Max Nordile - Walk Thru Parts 1 & 2 [Music for People] 
More unlistenable than the Hatchery tape and this is in no way a criticism. It’s actually a compliment! Obsession with tactile sounds is featured prominently and I share that obsession. The world hasn’t caught up with me and Max but that’s okay. You can keep your Taylor Swift and your Ramones, World. Max and I are more than content being riveted by amplified chafing and incidental signal interference. The first side is kind of a stunner, a lovingly sculpted something of walkie talkie static, squeaks, scratches and rumbles. Broken cable buzz looped into the dance hit of the summer. This thing is going straight to #1 on Radio Free Radio! The second side is a bit ho hum compared to the highwire act of the first but I’m still feeling it. The only thing that pisses me off about Walk Thru Parts 1 & 2 is the unacceptable amount of dead air on each of the sides after the music concludes. Get some shorter tapes Max! 

Psuedo Desnudo - First Man from the Second Millennium [Cudighi] 
I dug the bright primary color scheme of this tape immediately though it offers no clue to the sounds inside. I was pleasantly surprised to find that First Man from the Second Millennium is a distinctly oddball album of lo-fi pop. My ears were met with “Do as Kings” and I’m still not quite sure what to make of it (other than I love it). I thought of This Kind of Punishment but I don’t recall them ever doing sauntering numbers with bongo drums. It’s a wonderful song and one that occupies a completely unique space in the music compendium of my brain. 

Psuedo Desnudo covers a lot of terrain elsewhere: the garage-funk gibberish of “Dalu Zoo Hondales”, the twee brass romp “Eros’ Hex” (flashes of Architecture in Helsinki), deadpanning a UK accent (???) on “Loveless Peking Heat”. The zippy title track features a big beautiful earworm of a chorus. All organ stabs and seasick guitar, sounding like Tronics on acid. The claustrophobic jingling and synthy unease on “Dog Bark, Not Find” reveal that Psuedo Desnudo should have been opening for Tuxedomoon in 70s San Francisco. Now where did I set down my time machine? 

I get why the aliens on the cover are worshiping Psuedo Desnudo and its special blend of curious idiosyncrasy and rigorously tested pop intuition; there is nothing more thrilling than discovering a new and true outsider gem. Look no further. 

Seth Thomas - The Songs of Seth Thomas [Cudighi] 
If there is such a thing as a morning record, The Songs of Seth Thomas is a morning record. I can’t imagine this tenderness aggravating even the most debilitating hangovers. There’s a drawing of a man asleep nestled with a cuddly kitty cat on the cover, so Seth’s not pulling the wool over anyone's eyes here. Or is he? Sounding very much like a guy wearing a turtleneck sweater in the early 70s, these songs were recorded in Portland (OR), Egypt, Palestine and Germany and I’ve already got a back story brewing in my head. Thomas is a spy (you see, a name as commonplace as “Seth Thomas” must be an alias) and he’s just blowing off steam from his stressful dayjob taking refuge in gently plucking his guitar and not raising his voice above a whisper.

Belaboring this silly digression, the songs themselves are often quotidian ruminations, surely the work of a highly perceptive, isolated individual skulking in the shadows of life. My favorite aspect of the record is the arrangements, which are fan-fucking-tastic. I’m a sucker for chamber- anything but this is some high-quality shit. Produced and arranged by Jon David Russell, there’s a near endless list of delicately employed instruments: harpsichord, celeste, sousaphone, flugelhorn, and so it goes. Russell’s work in concert with Thomas is essential, with the arrangements feeling like they are in constant conversation with Thomas’s voice, sometimes listening, sometimes responding. The instrumentation forms a perfect pairing for Thomas’s pleasing but sleepy vocals. Haven’t heard a flat out lovelier record in 2021 than this one.