Triple Negative is one of those bands that with each successive release not only reminds one of how fantastic they are, but also present and explore new facets of their sound. Most, if not all of the recordings that comprise the just-arrived Rodez Island Cyclone cassette edition will be brand new to fans, but the age of the music itself varies widely; the tracks that make up the two side-long suites are plucked from unreleased material and live performances captured well before the project’s recorded era, while others were tracked just this year. Even more lo-fi and rough-edged than the already slipshod Precious Waste in Our Wake and God Bless the Death Drive LPs, the near-formless delirium of A-side (‘La La La Haine’) cuts like “Overhead Pane Stane” evoking the best of that elusive early aughts homegrown psychedelia, from the moldy corner–dwelling group improv of NNCK to the woozy, sun-dusted drones of Sunroof! and Burning Star Core. These recognizable elements are still present in Triple Negative’s current output—albeit more thoroughly assimilated—so it’s fascinating to hear such foundational pieces of the band’s singular sound in a raw, unrefined state. Newer listeners like myself will feel right at home amidst the cacophonous tribal percussion and vocal abstractions of the early bits of side B (‘The Hares’), especially “Your Face Is Written Off All Over Your Face,” but the breadth of eclecticism soon grows even more with nods to early post-punk both implicit and explicit—the collection concludes with a breathless cover of “Karen,” one of The Go-Betweens’ first recorded songs. It should already be obvious, but as usual all of the song titles are incredible, their sensical nonsense and idiomatic half-subversion echoing the equally ambiguous yet familiar music.
Melbourne band HTRK’s output has undergone significant stylistic changes in the fifteen years since the 2007 major-label release of their debut Nostalgia with its self-descriptive opener “Hate Rock Trio” (much of which occurred in the wake of moving forward without bassist and drum programmer Sean Stewart, who died in 2010). By the band’s own description more than a decade on, the music they’re making now is “not as sad anymore because we’re not as sad.” But the minimal, nocturnal, smothering rock music of their first few records still stands as a great achievement in the long-running tradition. This mix collects material by other artists who dive to the depths of convention to create (conjure? summon?) apocalyptic heaviness. More doom and gloom than so-called “doom” itself. Rock ’n roll left out in the cold. It doesn’t want to be here. It’s angry that it has to be here. It hates you. Until it doesn’t.
00:00. Ukiah Drags – “Intro” from In the Reaper’s Quarters (Wharf Cat, 2014)
02:19. The Dreebs – “I” / “Reese” from Forest of a Crew (Ramp Local, 2018)
06:24. HTRK – “Look at Her” from Nostalgia (Fire, 2007)
10:54. Raime – “Your Cast Will Tire” from Quarter Turns Over a Living Line (Blackest Ever Black, 2016)
16:01. Snowman – “She Is Turning Into You” from The Horse, the Rat and the Swan (Dot Dash, 2008)
21:34. IT IT – “The Garage Pt 2” from Living Doll (self-released, 2018)
24:17. YC-CY – “Stalker” from Every Time I Close My Eyes (X-Mist, 2021)
27:24. Moin – “Elsie” from split with Pete Swanson (Confessions, 2012)
31:14. Dive and Dissolve – “Assimilation” from Abomination (Dero Arcade, 2018)
34:55. HEALTH – “Perfect Skin” from HEALTH (Lovepump United, 2007)
One of those names unknown to most but ubiquitous among few, Small Mercies is a relatively new CD-R label operated by Justin Lakes (Shredded Nerve et. al) that sporadically surveys the best the US noise scene has to offer. Its stylistic focus is specific yet still eclectic, drawing from artists at both ends of the extremity spectrum—e.g., the first of several appearances by Roman Leyva’s Plague Mother was followed up by a comparatively tranquil full-length by black-metal-turned-industrial act Mistletoe. While the still-fledgling imprint has already doled out a sizeable share of quality noise, this newest batch might be my favorite so far.
Country Gun – Drunk & On Drugs
“Images drift on the drugstore window. The wind has blown the smell of cattle into town. Our eyes have been driven in like the eyes of the old men. And there’s no one to have mercy on us.”
—William Gass, In the Heart of the Heart of the Country
The abstract idea of “the country” means something different to everyone, but there’s not too much ambiguity with regard to what approach this new duo of Matt Boettke and Kyle Flanagan takes (hint: less Little House on the Prairie, more Calvaire). Drunk & On Drugs is a moody, smogged-over debut, the dual sludge of electronics and tape is psychedelic in a lethargic, delirious kind of way, like the final throes of exposure. “Angel Poke” is an odd but fitting choice for a centerpiece track; displaced drones and pinched synth pulses simmer in mud-pit stasis, languidly expanding and contracting rather than steadily building toward a climax. But then, unexpectedly, “Boys Gone Wild” is just that, a cathartic howl of junk metal screech that leaves the fields blackened and barren. And it gets better every time. Plus, I mean, just look at that cover.
Lapse – Powerline
The 27th entry in the Small Mercies catalog is also the fourth appearance of Lakes’ own Lapse project, and the first in nearly two years, since 2020’s Weaponization. The alias often delivers some of the label’s most abrasive material, and Powerline is no different, comprising four assaults of crunchy, dense harsh that’s both brutish and textural. Opener “Solvent” is loud in itself (surprising, I know), ripping torrents of crushing analog gunk across a low-end floor that’s so blown out it’s almost rhythmic, but “Glue Trap” is louder. Like, whatever machine this shit was recorded on is scrap now louder. It’s glorious. The entirety of the 18-minute scorcher is actually quite varied, with plenty of new layers and frequencies and volume levels (sort of) to keep things interesting, but it never loses the savagery of its initial blast. There’s no respite or cooldown or any of that nonsense to be had in the last two tracks, and “Veronica” especially is just incredible. I’ve listened to this every day since I got it and don’t plan on stopping… and if preferring routine to change makes me a rat, then I’m a fuckin’ rat.
Though the works that first exposed me to Halifax’s Crow Versus Crow—Shit Creek’s The Land of the Remember and Cahn Ingold Prelog’s Accelerate—were comparatively less voice-centric, the label’s most recent output has traced a piecemeal but still comprehensive survey of the best of U.K.-based babblers. Sophie Sleigh-Johnson is probably not as familiar of a name to most (at least compared to prolific stalwarts like Posset, Yol, and Brandstifter), but her debut(?) tape Nuncio Ref! is all the introduction you’ll need. From the cryptic Nyoukisy liner notes to the devoutly specific source material and structural logic at work in the actual music, these “first-baked tape works” (Sam and Ella? sorry, never heard of them) are both individually and collectively superb sonic arcana, the overall suite landing somewhere in the mutual outskirts of surreal radio play, hermitic tape collage, and text-sound. I firmly recommend that anyone even remotely interested in any of those art forms check this album out in its entirety, but if you really need a sample, look no further than “Napoleon’s Violet,” an easy standout that offers everything from dictaphone skronk and tactile clutter concrète to elastic speech glitching that would make Mr. LPC proud. In summary, really excited about this one. So gather ’round children, “it’s feeding time at the revised pit.”
From Cork’s newest noise et al. label Krim Kram comes the first widely available material by Kevin Kirwan’s Dressing project, and even standing shoulder-to-shoulder with two stalwart avant cornerstones (representing the BUFMS and the LAFMS, respectively) in this inaugural batch, the Dublin-based tape- and feedback-wrangler delivers some compelling, memorable, and truly striking music. Culled from two micro-edition C20s Kirwan put out himself last year on Dul Amú (early Barn Sour catchall disc when???), the four tracks that comprise this self-titled offering can all be heard as meditations on/in abandoned, dilapidated dwellings, meticulous orchestrations of all the noises and nightcrawlers that scuttle in the shadowy corners. “Knotted Thought” is titled appropriately, making ample use of the same tensile head-scrubbing that gives the Nevari Butchers their creeping hangman’s horror, while in the following track both more reserved (“Warm Routine”) and more abrasive (“Enduring Mercy”) moments bring to mind a wide range of other analog-based contemporaries, from Urall to Shredded Nerve. But even though Kirwan’s work certainly seems to engage with the still-thriving tape noise tradition and all its innumerable facets, there’s something fundamental about it that sets it well apart, something I can’t quite yet put my finger on. Perhaps because it is likely not something, but many things: the rage buried within even the most anemic of distortion blasts, the spiderweb logic that imbues the disarming cut-ups and jagged layers with some kind of sense, the way the sound seems to deny even as it explores. Long story short, I know for a fact that I am in no way prepared, but very much excited for whatever Kirwan has in store for the upcoming Oxen release.