Back when I did the first one-track mind post last year, I’d meant to do it as an occasional series. Silly me for thinking I had the attention span to remember such a thing. Well, as of today, one-track mind is monthly, coming the third Wednesday of every month. So here you go: loud stuff to get behind (or not, as the case may be).
STANDING DISCLAIMER: It would be ridiculous to try and do Full Disclosure on these. Just assume I know everyone here at least via the Internet, and most of them in person. You’ll be right far more often than wrong.
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Captain Three Leg/Mean Dave, Split (Mortville, 2013)
Captain Three Leg have been toiling away in the relative obscurity of Iowa—who says good bands don’t come out of Iowa? (Well, okay, everyone who’s ever heard Slipknot, but still)—since about the dawn of time. Too grind for the hardcore kids, but with too much classic-eighties hardcore influence for anyone who’s fallen into one of the *grind niches (goregrind, porngrind, blah blah blah) that got so tiresome after after five releases apiece. Be subgenre-agnostic for once in your miserable life and just listen to some good music, will you, you lump? Joke-rock is a tough thing to pull off, and I’ve heard a lot more bands try it that I hate than I like, but C3L, well, if you find yourself snickering while wondering “what the hell did I just listen to?” after hearing “Brown Cow”, you’re well on your way. By the time you get to “Abandoned Brandon (King of the Dancefloor)”, you’ll be hooked for life. It makes perfect sense to throw some standup comedy from former Wuzor bassist Mean Dave on the flipside (if you’ll recall, Wuzor’s discography comp on Mortville made my best-of lists last year). I’m not a standup guy—the last comedy album I owned was Cosby’s Himself from ’82—but this stuff is pretty damn amusing. I did find myself wondering just how much extra racial insensitivity one is supposed to be able to get away with by dint of being Hispanic, but compared to a lot of the “comedy” I’ve heard over the years, Dave’s only hitting the tip of that iceberg, and most people who aren’t as ridiculously oversensitive as me probably won’t even notice (I saw Philomena over the weekend and was cringing at the scene between Judi Dench and George Fisher. “Oh, you’re Mexican? I’m from England, and all our food is prepared by Indians! We’re all fond of curry…” Good jesus).
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Gut Rot, The Velvet Boy (Compulsion Rites, 2013)
The Velvet Boy is, to date, the sole release from Sarah Barker, half of Retch and one-third of Torso (making time with Plague Mother’s Roman J in both of those acts). With a CV like that, you should be expecting balls to the wall scuzziness, and you get it here—this is Tatiana Cream’s legendary Flesh and Cream with flensing instead of fucking at its black little heart. This is going to poke you in the eye and then spend fifteen minutes batting you around the room like a cat playing with a half-dead vole, and when it is done you will be simultaneously begging for release and not wanting it to end.
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Plague Mother, Where Death Was the Cure (Compulsion Rites, 2013)
Wait, what the hell is this? Low, ominous synth-loopiness on a Plague Mother release? What’s more, “Anemone”, the entire first side of Where Death Was the Cure, is this ominous ambient stuff. As with all things Plague Mother, it is excellent, but a great deal quieter than you were expecting. Dark, crrepy, almost ritual, with a little bit of higher-register tone coming in towards the end. No, what you were expecting happens when you flip the tape over and play “Sea Glass” and a thousand tiny scalpels come flying out of the speakers to shred your skin into little tiny nubbins perfect for consumption by rabbits. Harsh noise wall, emphasis on the “harsh”. I wouldn’t exactly call it “accessible”, but it’s not as far out in ear-shredding territory as something line Obsessions, so this might be one to play for your less powrelectronic-y friends as a way to introduce them to the wonders of Roman J.
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Nicolas Bernier, frequencies (a/fragments) (Line, 2014)
There are some people who see “composed” and “improvised” as a dichotomy in music; a piece that is one thing cannot be the other. Nicolas Bernier provides an excellent example of the grey area between them with this one-track, half-hour-long disc. There is obvious structure here, but there’s a lot of room for improvisation, twisting the instrumentation, adding or subtracting a rhythm here or there, etc. Genrewise I’m not exactly sure where you’d stash this, keeping with the grey-area theme; there’s electroacoustic, ambient, perhaps a bit of electronica running deep in here. Clear, bright bell tones (tuning forks?) and sound wash over a rhythm so serene and yet so fractured that it could easily be the feet of people walking around in a space (as per Damion Romero’s “/livingroom” but with less audio fuckery involved) rather than an actual rhythm. And yet despite all this there is no point where you can listen to a fragment of this and not feel the hand of a composer; it is intriguing indeed.
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Sheila DeWitt, Bluestown (Sheila DeWitt, 2011)
Intriguing self-release by a woman who I think is about 95% of the way to a breakthrough. Now, easy listening is not my preferred mode (which should be obvious by the rest of these reviews) and maybe I’m way off base; no one would ever confuse me for Simon Cowell. (I’m sexier.) But I think the one problem that exists within DeWitt’s otherwise appealing and distinctive voice is one of restraint; there are a few places on this album where it seemed like she was keeping it low-key when she should have (indeed, it seemed to me she wanted to have) been belting it out like Mitzi Gaynor after an entire pitcher of martinis. (Check, as an example, the last minute of “Believe”.) Combine that with a little more punch in the band and the next album should be putting her name in much brighter lights.
[can’t find a place to share/embed; tracks can be previewed to the above Amazon link.]
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Mehrunes Dagon, Dread Father (Bandcamp, 2013)
I somehow did not review this in that last One-Track Mind, which I dashed off a couple of weeks after this came out. It must have slipped through the cracks. That’s given me another ten months to listen to it obsessively, which is a pretty good approximation of how I DO listen to it. Well, you start off (a) with a band whose name (accurately) reflects that they’re a bunch of Elder Scrolls Nerds, who (b) start off their five-song EP with a track that extensively samples Anton LaVey’s The Satanic Mass album, and then (c ) back that up with the kind of hook-laden stoner rock that I have always wished the Bakerton Group could pull off, given how excellent they are when they add a vocalist and become Clutch. Problem is, there’s not a song on Dread Father that isn’t ten times as groovy as anything Bakerton have ever come up with, and then you slap in Satan worship AND the Elder Scrolls? I want to give this whole band an Amulet of Mara. [ed.note: I just realized this album does run a shade over twenty-one minutes…which means I need to figure out what falls off my Albums of the Year list to make room for this monstrosity.]
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Andrew Kirschner, Patient (905 Tapes, 2014)
Back when I was in college and Metallica were still relevant, I was a huge fan. (To give you an idea, Newsted had just joined the band and they’d put out Garage Days II, with …And Justice for All just over the horizon.) I was in love, and played Metallica every chance I got. One of my friends was not so enamored—actually, none were, but I at least had one friend who had the brain of a nascent critic and could articulate why. He singled out the bass lines on the Burton-era stuff, and the comparison he gave was to a car’s exhaust. Of course, that’s what had grabbed me back then, that almost subsonic rumble that I still try to imitate in noise tracks a quarter-century later. With his new cassette, Kirschner (who also performs as half of Blackfire and half of Reluctance) has his finger on that exact pulse, though I think he’s a little farther up the chassis. This is the sound you would hear if you were the universal cat of urban legend who had crawled under the car’s hood to escape the cold, especially on the second track of side two. That’s just bleak and pitiless (“Patient” here refers to the hospital, not the state of mind, at least in my interpretation of what’s going on here). If you write for Scene, it would probably be kind of like standing behind a jet engine, but as with most stuff categorized as Harsh Noise Wall, there’s a great deal going on just under the surface; you just have to have the patience (ha!) to find it.
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Black Flag Hoisted, WRUW Off-Air Anthem (Compulsion Rites, 2014)
Roman J has never been all that great at hiding his sociopolitical extremism; he has headed up, or performed in, acts with monikers like Mailbomb Solution and Strangled Cop. But no name he has performed under quite has that direct-action feel as Black Flag Hoisted, which he pulls out for immediate calls to action. Most recently, he dusted it off for “WRUW Off-Air Anthem”, in response to the controversy surrounding a DJ being disciplined for playing a Nightmare Castle track (and, later in the week, another being cautioned while playing an XTerminal track while in safe haven hours). You might expect this five-minute single, in keeping with the problems with said radio station, to be a harsh noise wall track. The bottom layer of it is, a thick, pounding looped static wall, but there is more than enough high-register nastiness over top to make sure you wouldn’t mistake this for a station actually being off the air. This is not powerelectronics for beginners; if you don’t know what you’re doing, “WRUW Off-Air Anthem” is probably going to hit you like a side of beef.
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Laura Shigihara, My Blue Dream + (My Blue Dream 2004/Bandcamp 2013)
Laura Shigihara is now, by a country mile, best-known for having supplied the addictive soundtrack for one of the best-selling “casual games” of all time, Plants vs. Zombies. You should be considering that a gateway drug to her earlier pop work. My Blue Dream is one of the most successful blends of Jpop roots and Western sensibility I’ve ever heard; it’s been a staple on my mp3 player for five years or so at this point. Shigihara is excellent at coming up with the kinds of hooks that will stay in your head for days (viz. “2.75”). The re-release on Bandcamp adds a couple of earlier, rough-mixed demo tracks—if you’ve already got a copy of My Blue Dream (and you should), you probably don’t need to pick up the re-release unless you’re a completist, but if you’re new to the pop magic of Laura Shigihara, My Blue Dream is a must-own.
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Furisubi, A Dream in the Eye and the Dirt Beneath the Heel (Last Visible Dog, 1998)
The history of the work of Kris Lapke is a long and increasingly complex one; as far as I can tell, Furisubi is its beginnings, and A Dream in the Eye and the Dirt Beneath the Heel is the beginning of Furisubi. Lapke, currently heading up Alberich and with ties to about a dozen other bands, was occasionally aided in Furisubi by Emily Salvatierra; the two of them teamed up with Dominick Fernow in 2001 for a collaborative effort with their two acts and Diagram A (Informatively titled Collaboration), and… well, the rest is history; Lapke would go on to become an occasional member of Prurient, Fermow, Lapke, and Salvatierra would form the excellent one-off rock band Football Rabbit, etc. A Dream… is much more Football Rabbit than it is Collaboration, sounding a lot like the precursor to the rash of alternapunk noise-rock duos who would appear soon after (Lightning Bolt, Clan of the Cave Bear, Behold! the Yeti Scalp, etc. etc.). Extended (mostly) guitar jams backed with drums that are more interested in keeping a solid beat than the flash and showmanship of the bands that would come after. Last Visible Dog seem to have gone the way of the great auk; their website is no longer active and as far as I can tell they haven’t done a release since 2010, which makes this a seemingly tough piece to come across these days; worth picking up if you stumble across it and if you’re a fan of the bands mentioned above, but not something to spend your life trying to track down a copy of.