Where has the time gone? We're already halfway through 2011, and we've already experienced the Rapture (not the New York hipster band, but the apocalyptic religious end-of-days), the controversy of Beyoncé headlining Glastonbury festival, and the death of Osama bin Laden. It's been a climactic year. Luckily, the next impending disaster is still another half a year away, so you'll probably live to see our thoughts on 2011 as a whole too.
Read on for our thoughts on the year so far in terms of albums, EPs, movies, cassettes, splits, and more!
Ghostface Killah-Apollo Kids
Dropping in right at the end of the year (released on 12/21), Ghost returns with an album of bangers not heard since 2006's Fishscale—gritty, graphic, passionate, and, well, real. Guest spots from a bevy of storytellers, including Busta Rhymes, The Game, Redman, and fellow Wu members and affiliates, matched with soul and funk-sampling production from the likes of Jake One, Yakub, Pete Rock and others make for an undeniably true hip-hop album. Standout tracks are “In the Park”—a back-in-the-day jam that features the Roots’ Black Thought spitting rhymes harder than you’d think he’s capable of—and “How You Like Me Baby”—which has one of the best Ghost choruses since Fishscale’s “Be Easy.”
Another late year release (10/25); Spiral Shadow shows Kylesa picking up where they left off on Static Tensions—continuing to shed the crust-tinged edges of their past; delving further into progressive and psychedelic areas. This is the third and cleanest-sounding Kylesa record that has been produced in-house by guitarist Phillip Cope. While an emphasis on flawless production often times produces disappointing results in the world of sludge and doom, it’s a totally natural progression for Kylesa. And if you have any doubts as to whether they can still bring the lumber, one listen to this record will prove otherwise. Aside from including Kylesa’s most palatable song to date— “Don’t Look Back”—Spiral Shadow is quite the thunderous project; thanks in large part to the dual drum attack of Carl McGinley and Tyler Newberry.
Men’s Interest-More War
Shaun Dean, of Cold Sweat and Repercussions fame, returns fronting a new band—the menacing Men’s Interest. More War is somewhat mysterious, as there are no song titles—just numbers, and very little information other than the name of the band and the title of the record. Dean’s vocals are more penetrating and maniacal than ever before—imagine GG Allin and H.R. tongue-kissing each other, with melted cheese stuck in their throats. If that description makes you feel queasy you might want to take an antacid before listening to the record because it doesn’t get any less forbidding. More War is seven songs of raw, noisy hardcore that will leave you feeling sketched out yet yearning for more—the vinyl equivalent of methamphetamine.
OFF!-First Four EPs
A hardcore punk rock supergroup of sorts, OFF! Features members of Red Kross, Burning Brides and Rocket From The Crypt, fronted by former Black Flag/Circle Jerks front man and current punk historian/know-it-all, Keith Morris. With no song clocking over the minute and a half mark, Morris has never sounded more urgent, and dare I say, youthful. The production of these songs strikes a perfect balance between old and new—the guitars are clean and loud, but Morris’ vocals are allowed to crack and pop the microphone in a way that recalls the raw energy of early Black Flag. First Four EPs is just that—a collection of four different EPs. They come nicely packaged, complete with artwork courtesy of Raymond Pettibone, who is responsible for creating much of the iconic imagery of the era of hardcore that the members of OFF! first cut their chops in.
Out of Boston, MA comes yet another bad-ass hardcore band. Short, fast, loud, heavy, raw, noisy, ripping, raging, yada-yada, you know the drill—there are only so many ways to describe this stuff; all of them fitting for this six-song demo by Unperson. Their tunes are quick, fevering jaunts, done in less than a minute, with vocals that are more shouty than they are screamy. Think female-fronted Capitalist Casualties or Dropdead. If you look up “hardcore demo tape” in the encyclopedia, you’d find this. By the time you read this Unperson may have disbanded. But fret not; Krystina and another member are in a band called Curmudgeon, which is in the same vein, and have already released a demo.
This record label spearheaded by R. Loren (of the Hydra Head Pyramids, Sailors With Wax Wings, White Moth) has been consistently churning out great records at an unbelievable pace; kicking the whole operation off was the mind blowing vinyl appearance of Blut Aus Nord’s MORT and Evan Caminiti’s (from Barn Owl) When California Falls Into The Sea through Celestiial’s Desolate North (which has dominated my stereo for some time since I received the album) and the massive 3x10” collection of the Key demos to the vinyl issue of the elusive King Of Sweet from His Name Is Alive to the most recent batch of releases (Servile Sect’s TRVTH, the Der Blutharsch double LP collection, and the cassettes from Swamp Horse and Hostage Pageant). Every release looks great and sounds beautiful and the upcoming release schedule is sure to continue to empty my pockets on a regular basis. Not a single release has even been mediocre or average as every single artist involved seems to be excellent, speaking highly of R. Loren’s diverse and excellent taste in music.
Mamiffer & House Of Low Culture
Now, this might be two different obsessions to some, but the incestuous memberships and releases of these two projects justifies (in my mind anyway) doing this in such a manner. Starting off with the vinyl version of their split on Utech last year via their own Sige Records, Mamiffer and House Of Low Culture have assaulted their fanatics with small releases and great releases along the way. Lou Lou… In Tokyo (both on CD/DVD from Japan and a 2xLP), the magnificent Mare Descendrii, the two split tour cassettes and more releases on the way including the new House Of Low Culture album, Poisoned Soil and the new Mamiffer album, Lilac, and probably even more. Between the two of them, they are making me poor, but the music output is truly top notch.
Music Ruins Lives
Music Ruins Lives (or MRL for short) is another label that has easily been burning up my cash flow by consistently releasing excellent records this year (and late last year); to the point where the label, which hand numbers every release) has cooperated and taken pity on my obsession by ensuring that I receive all of the number 33 copy from every tape, record, CD, etc that they deem to release (with the exception of releases with less than 33 copies, in which case I get #3). The onslaught started late last year and has continued from the late December releases of the Airs Rainclouds Over The Remains Of Hope and Greys In Fades through Untitled from mighty Planning For Burial and Arrow and Orb from Bad Braids and Monthhunting from Tom Vourtsis to the great Sequences / Isolated Existence release ( Graminaea / Poaceae), the amazing Sunyata Rising / Limbs In Gloom from Life In The Dark to the most recent release, (-) from Vit. All releases are excellent and worth tracking down. Thank god that the two miscreants that run this are hopeless collector nerds like myself.
Locrian is another group that has had me running trying to track down their myriad of previous releases while their new output can be almost as challenging. Go to Discogs.com to see just how many releases this former duo now trio have produced during their existence. So far this year, the new records have been excellent with the vinyl release of The Crystal World as well as a split 7” with Horseback and a collaborative one sided LP, New Dominions, that is also with Horseback. Though I do not know all of the details of their upcoming projects, I do know at least one surprise up their sleeve that I seriously cannot wait to hear and just maybe another LP will be on the way as well.
Now, Sutekh Hexen is probably my latest obsession, chronologically speaking of course. With three cassettes to their name (Alters, Constellation, and Ritualistic respectively) and a 7” EP, Ordo Adversarial, this duo is starting to light a fire in some circles. Their awesome blackened noise is force to be reckoned with already and with at least three 12”s (EPs and LPs maybe), two 7”s, and a 3x7” boxset coming soon, they certainly will have plenty to hear in the not so distant future. I love putting their music on full blast and just getting lost in it all.