Review of Bryce Miller’s “City Depths” at Starburst Magazine

From the cover art, featuring a silhouetted man in a carpark, to the purple-tinged cassette, to the liner notes, Bryce Miller’s imaginary soundtrack, City Depths, is absolutely gorgeous in the way in conveys discomfort. As Miller states in the liner notes, the experience he’s hoping to communicate with this music is ‘a sense of uneasy stillness as the moon casts everything in darkness and shadow.’
Read the full review at Starburst Magazine. Published 12/2/16

Review of Bryce Miller’s ‘WASP’ at Starburst Magazine

Bryce Miller's put together an interesting musical experiment with his release of WASP. He composed all of the music while reading his way through Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy (also known as “The Girl Who ...” books). It's pretty basic ambient music, for the most part, and while it really creates an atmosphere, which accurately reflects the cold world in which the Millennium Trilogy takes place, it’s not anything that really stands out, as one begins listening.
Read the full review at Starburst Magazine. Published 9/21/16

Review of Repeated Viewing’s “Street Force” cassette at Starburst Magazine

One of the best aspects of the music Alan Sinclair produces as Repeated Viewing is the fact that, for all of the faux mythologizing regarding his imaginary film scores, they actually tell a story through music. One can create artwork, a backstory, or some semblance of a plot summary, but all of that means nothing without music which could actually soundtrack said scenario.
Read the complete review of Repeated Viewing's Street Force cassette at Starburst Magazine. Published 7/21/16

Various Artists, “Crazy Al’s Indiana Punk and New Wave 76-83” cassette

cover - crazy als indiana punk cassette My review of Crazy Al's Indiana Punk & New Wave '76 - '83 on Twitter consisted mainly of "BUY IT" repeated a dozen times, and I stand by that. Hell, even if the majority of the bands and songs were mediocre, I'd probably recommend you snag this cassette just for the previously unreleased Zero Boys song, "I'm Absent." However, it also has the amazing compilation staple of Dow Jones and the Industrials' "Can't Stand the Midwest," and it's just crazy good across the board. The advantage of this being punk and new wave is that we're not limited to three-chord bangers for two sides. There's weird synthesizer and keyboard cuts like the Dancing Cigarettes' "Pop Doormat," which is one of those things you discover and wonder why it's not getting played during those retro radio lunches instead of another run through "Take On Me." There's also the electro-punk of We're Jimmy Hoffa, whose "Rock 'n Roll" seethes and oozes like the nastiest underground goth, only to blast through with razor-edged guitars. It's the sort of thing that counterbalances the snotty basics of Panics' "I Wanna Kill My Mom," which is exactly the sort of thing the Killed By Death crowd adores (having appeared on volumes 9 and 15 ½ of that compilation series). Crazy Al's even dips into power-pop with Latex Novelties. Their "Kiss and MakeUp" is a perfectly Midwestern take on early UK underground pop: Boy-era U2 or the Skids, for instance (although both of them are actually Irish, come to think of it). There's a two-disc CD version of this comp that has another unreleased Zero Boys song, "Commies." The CD version is about double the length of this cassette, and some artists have more tracks than are on the tape, while others have the same, and there are even bands on the CD that don't make it onto the tape. I don't know enough about the Indiana punk scene to say whether the bands on the Magnetic South cassette are more notable or they're better cuts, though. You can buy the cassette version of Crazy Al's Indiana Punk and New Wave 76-83 from the Magnetic South store, or the double CD version from Time Change Records.

Pushin’ It 2 The Limit, “self-titled” cassette

pi2tl header When I reviewed Ex Friends' Rules For Making Up Words last year, I mentioned that I really liked Audrey Crash's vocals, but was "kind of turned off by Joel Tannenbaum‘s delivery>' Well, here's the perfect solution: Crash is fronting a band called Pushin' It 2 The Limit. Their new, self-titled cassette is pretty boss. Short, punchy tunes that rush along, kind of like a punker Lemuria. The songs have pop hooks and catchy lyrics -- "Breaking through Everything with Your Facehammer" is an excellent example of how PI2TL works: lyrics about pushing through, being creatively fulfilled, sang with wobbly harmonies by Crash and guitarist Leta Gray. Everything's a little shaggy around the edges -- the band's a bit off-time on some cuts, like "Vertical Horizon," where it's a bit like the group recorded, and cared more for the relaxed feel than getting it precisely right. And, really -- I'm fine with that. This isn't a perfect album, but it's warm and fun, and definitely not limited by some idea of what's supposed to happen on an album. Hell, the trio noodles out on the end of "Vertical Horizon," then goes right into "Pump Up the Shred," which is a full-on skatepunk number. That's not following the rules. My favorite song features guest vocals from a cat named Winnie, and is a short, bouncy number called "Pushin' it 2 the Limit Saves the Fish." A cat! A cat on vocals. It's shit like this that makes this cassette super-fucking-charming, and fun, and while I was a little worried when I saw the cover art (it could've very easily have been bad retro hardcore), Pushin' It 2 The Limit play music that is exactly the sort of thing you want to put on, crank to the limit, and start your day off with some positive affirmations that also shred like whoah. Best part of the record is that the entire band shouts the title of each song before it kicks in. That thing, where you're listening to the album, and you have to keep pulling out of the card, case, sleeve, or whatever? No problem! You'll be yelling the titles along with the rest of the songs in no time. You can find more information about Pushin' It 2 The Limit at their Facebook page.

Lunglust, “As Guilt Collects Dust” cassette

Cassette Insert- 2 Panel sepsLunglust's As Guilt Collects Dust cassette took a few listens to get a handle on. I couldn't quite wrap my brain around what the band was trying to accomplish. However, it finally clicked one morning that the five piece is really letting these songs breathe. It's not that they're wide-open, jammy bits of hardcore -- not at all. As a matter of fact, opening cut "Closed Casket" goes right into "Broken Idol" without much more than a slight dip in the music. No, what Lunglust has done here is create a hardcore single that isn't trying to play a mile-a-minute, with all the riffs crammed tightly into 45-60 second songs. Hardcore's the rare genre wherein a two minute song can be considered "stretching out," but such is the case. Every song on As Guilt Collects Dust let's the instruments speak without the vocals jammed right on top of them, so you can hear the interplay between Jeff Sykes' harsh rasp and the band's lurching, pounding rhythms. It's especially noticeable on the final track, "Revenge." As Sykes yells "REVENGE!", it's almost as if guitarists Eric Lee and Eric Kelling are answering him with riffs. It's incredibly powerful music. Props to Lunglust for playing music that manages to utilize hardcore's brevity and intensity, but is willing to branch out and let their songs have some space to grow. Any band that's willing to let their breakdowns have a melodic element to them is aces, in my book. [embed][/embed] Lunglust's As Guilt Collects Dust is available now on Bandcamp and as a limited-edition purple cassette Tor Johnson Records.

Sitar Outreach Ministry, “Revolution In Dimension 5” cassette

cover - sitar outreach ministry revolutionWhen you get a cassette by a band called Sitar Outreach Ministry, and you know nothing more than whom it was released by, you put it in the tape deck the instant it shows up in the mail. So it went with Revolution In Dimension 5 the band's release on Magnetic South. It's probably the most novel thing a band could do these days, but it's not the unusual nature of Sitar Outreach Ministry's music or the novelty which sets them above anything, despite their Soundcloud featuring covers of the Velvet Underground and Bill Withers. However, it is those covers -- and, more specifically, the breadth of music which they represent -- that gives a clue as to why this one guy from Bloomington, Indiana, is such an interesting cat to listen to. There's psychedelic swilring going on here, obviously. To think otherwise would be ludicrous. It's the fact that there's some warmth and soul going on that's made Sitar Outreach Ministry's tape become my go-to for lousy days. Putting it on and letting everything swirl and drone from my speakers pretty much kills any negativity I might have going on. Is it even possible to be in a shitty mood as you hear the Spider-Man theme raga-fied and reverbed almost out of context? Nope. [embed][/embed] [embed][/embed] Sitar Outreach Ministry's Revolution In Dimension 5 can be found on Bandcamp or as a physical edition red cassette, limited to 75, from the Magnetic South store.

Alpha Owl, “3 Song EP” cassette

cover - alpha owlAlpha Owl's "Boscage" single is an amazing package. Hand-typed liner notes, letterpress artwork, and it's just amazing. Lots of work for a three-song EP, especially something that's limited to a production run of 100. The music took me a little more to get into. It's energetic stoner metal that acknowledges that Black Sabbath wrote "Paranoid," as well as "War Pigs," if that makes any sense. The EP isn't all plodding sludge -- it's actually upbeat and makes you want to do that thing where you play air guitar and wiggle your fingers. It involves lots of epic soloing, some insane riffage, and some pounding drums that make me wish this hadn't been mastered so high. Were there more of a low end, this could conceivably level a house. This might be the most fun release Tor Johnson has put out. It manages to rock like a hardcore band, but still evokes every evening spent smoking too much weed and raiding your parents' LPs for Hawkwind and Led Zeppelin records. Granted, the vocals are occasionally just a little out of reach of the singer's range, but it ends up lending the whole affair a sense of desperation that wouldn't otherwise be there. For a first release, it shows a lot of promise, and I can't wait to see where Alpha Owl heads next.

High Diving Ponies, “Face Blindness” cassette

cover - face blindness Last Friday, Stephen Thompson answered a question regarding too much music on the All Songs Considered blog. I sympathized with the writer, because looking at the stacks of records, singles, CDs, and cassettes scattered about the basement, I feel that I don't get a chance to really appreciate music the way I once did. And, really, it doesn't hit until you throw in a cassette by a local band -- in this case, Kansas City's High Diving Ponies' newest, Face Blindness -- and realize that you've really enjoyed everything they've ever put out, but probably only listened to each release but once. And you've never seen them live? Seriously, how can you claim to enjoy a band when you've only listened to them 10% as much as you did Blink-182 as a teenager? Face Blindness is, again, a big wall of sound from High Diving Ponies, but it's tempered by what sounds like a lot of natural echo. It's a live album, tonally -- there's a really nice sense of decay to everything, where the vocals and instrumentation have a chance to fade out and bounce back from distant walls. On cuts like "Clairvoyant," it's more noticeable, since the higher pitch of Joey Henry's noise banjo (which is a fucking amazing addition) doesn't fuzz away quite as much as the dream-like "Headlights" or "Living the Dream." It's a great effect, almost like evoking instant nostalgia. The distortion, both in terms of instrument tone, and the way Face Blindness appears to have been recorded, gives the entire record a sense of having come from before, rather than now. Speaking of amazing additions, "Living the Dream" fades out in the fuzz of a modem connecting, and it's so buried in the general dissonance, I had to rewind the tape a cuple of times to confirm what I heard. Hell, guitarist / vocalist Josh Thomas told me via Twitter exactly where the noise banjo comes in on "Living the Dream," and I still can't quite pick it out. You can buy Face Blindness from High Diving Ponies' Bandcamp, either on cassette (limited to 77 copies) or on a LightScribe CD-R with a spray-painted case (limited to 50 copies).