Author Archive

Naked

"Burn"

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Carl Smith means to strip everything away and lay his emotion bare. His chosen moniker Naked tips its hat to this notion, but the real baring is done through his music. Living somewhere between doom, drone, and shoegaze, the music of Naked fits comfortably in the camp of some of the material that’s been coming out of Flenser Records lately—Planning for Burial, Boduf Songs, and King Woman all come to mind. The difference here is that there is something about Naked that, while raw, feels unmistakably bright.

Take his latest single “Burn” from his upcoming album Hopeless, for example. It opens with the sound of rain hitting the ground, but in this case the storm we’re hearing is nearer to its end than its beginning. Smith is very open about using the music as a conduit for dealing with his depression, but the gentle nature of the music and the melody coming from Smith’s voice create a healing narrative that take the ugly and force it out of the shadows. Even on the darkest days there is sunshine after the rain.

Hopeless is out on March 15th via //APNEICVOID//sounds.

Boduf Songs

Stench of Exist

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You can see the beauty on the cover for Boduf Songs‘ most recent album Stench of Exist if you take a quick glance at it. But the more closely you look, the more you realize that the beauty which first pulled your eyes in is actually on its way out. The flowers that looked so colorful and vibrant have revealed that they are past their prime and have begun to wilt. Spiders and snakes creep in from the corners and the bouquet that once seemed so attractive has now become truly ugly. If there was ever going to be a primer for Stench of Exist, and possibly Boduf Songs’ music in general, this complicated image is it. If you’re going to dig into this album, you’ll be entering Mat Sweet’s world, or at least a narration of the way he sees it. It’s deeply pensive, scary and dark, and yet it’s not completely hopeless. Through his eyes the world is a beautiful place, or rather, it used to be.

Before really diving into the complex world of Stench of Exist, it’s important to note that Sweet’s lyrics are the key to unlocking his worldview; and what’s more is that they balance out the music as it was meant to be heard. So there they are, the words plastered to the cover art for the album, just begging for you to pore over them. Sweet means for you to absorb them, and reading them is probably the easiest way to digest them, because deciphering meaning as you listen, well, that might require a bit more patience.

Not so much sung as whispered, the songs on Stench of Exist creep along with the cadence of Sweet’s voice adding more to the ambient, sort of lurching, doom-like nature of the songs than they do as traditionally sung vocals. Which makes sense because about half of the album is instrumental and just as deceptively dark as the lyrical content. He even says on “The Rotted Names” that “Sometimes the words get in the way. They try to push through, up and out the tangled wires. They try to trick you.” Sweet’s world is impressionistic and so his words and meaning can come across as pretty vague. It’s best to just let them and the feelings they elicit wash over you rather than apply any sort of specific meaning.

This is made all the easier on the back of Sweet’s gorgeous instrumentation. It would be tempting to see a one-man project based around guitar work and immediately lump it into the singer/songwriter category, but if we’re being honest here, there is so much more going on with Boduf Songs than meets the eye. It’s a rich, fully-realized world that shouldn’t be categorized as much as it should be explored. Drawing heavily on ambient, drone, and even metal (hence its place with The Flenser family) Stench of Exist is the sort of creeping monster that you don’t know if you should watch or maybe run from.

For as dark as Stench of Exist can come across, it’s probably the album of Sweet’s most positive outlook yet when considering where he’s come from. This is his sixth album as Boduf Songs so he’s had plenty of time to dwell on sickness and decay. And despite its title, Stench of Exist is most likely Sweet’s way of clawing towards the light. “Last Song Save One” is the spiritual closer on the album and its lyrics read positively when looking back over the road that the album has taken thus far. Granted, the song is still being broadcast from the broken world that Boduf Songs inhabits, but it seems to be yearning for something better. It acknowledges the hardships and the aging process, but in a way, it sees all of the darkness as being worth it. Sweet sings “I would love to see you again” as the song closes and the bitter taste that the album carries in its mouth is suddenly gone. Matthew Sweet is looking up.

Stench of Exist is out now via Flenser Records.

PWR BTTM

"Hold Yer Tongue"

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Either you know what “power bottom” means or you don’t. I must admit that I was in the dark until that one episode of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia where Dennis laid things out quite succinctly. So assuming that we are all now in the know, we can move onto PWR BTTM, the Bard College duo who are starting to make waves.

Consisting of two members, Ben Hopkins and Oliver Bruce, the self-described genre-queer band is all about brightly-colored strokes, crunching guitar riffs, ramshackle percussion, and full-voiced vocal melodies. And what’s more is that their energy levels are constantly pulsing as Hopkins and Bruce take turns switching vocal and instrumental duties. A perfect example of what these two bring can be heard on “Hold Yer Tongue,” the first single from Republican National Convention, their upcoming split with Bard buddies Jawbreaker Reunion. It’s loud, it’s proud, but most of all it’s just a lot of fun.

Republican National Convention will be out on January 14th.

King Woman

"Burn"

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It was really only a matter of time before The Flenser, the Bay Area purveyors of all that is dark, worked with Kristina Esfandiari. Having previously logged hours slinging noise for both Whirr and Miserable, her solo doomy folk project, Kristina very obviously knows a thing or two about bringing the hurt. Now under the Flenser’s bleak umbrella she has revived her King Woman project for a proper debut EP called Doubt with a full band in tow.

“Burn,” is the first single from Doubt, and man, does it burn. The spiraling riffs scorch and unfurl and the entire track has a searing energy that never really lets up. Kristina’s melodic moans give voice to the silent scream on the cover, and the whole thing issues power. There is no queen here. This is King Woman.

Doubt will be out on February 17th via The Flenser.

Pile

"#2 Hit Single"

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Pile is a band that always seems to be on everyone’s lips. Not ones for big headlines, these guys have instead gained traction mostly on the strength of word-of-mouth and killer live shows. Their idiosyncratric labelmates Krill even started then later abandoned a concept album about the Boston noisemakers that only helped to elevate this mythological scene status.

Hot off their upcoming album You’re Better Than This is the humorously-titled “#2 Hit Single” that hits like a brightly-colored sock full of billiard balls. This is furious punk energy that doesn’t smile as much as smirk and if it’s any indication, You’re Better Than This is going to be one to watch out for.

You’re Better Than This is out on March 3rd via Exploding In Sound.

The Body & Thou

You, Whom I Have Always Hated

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My dad had been telling me to replace the tires on my car for weeks. The rubber had become bald to the point where I was basically driving on four inner tubes, but being the lazy halfwit that I am, I just didn’t feel like driving down and getting them switched out. Not to mention the couple hundred dollars it was going to cost me to do so. So I kept driving on them. Delivering pizzas all over town, I paid no mind to the accident waiting to happen spinning underneath me.

Then on Sunday night the weather took a turn for the disgusting. On Monday morning with a half-inch of sleet on the roads, I set off for work like I do every other normal day. I drove slowly to be cautious, but even so, as I crested the big, several-mile-long hill that would take me down into town, the inevitable happened. I began to slide. What simply alarmed me at first quickly then began to scare me. I spun, and sloshed, and before I knew it I was sliding sideways down a hill into oncoming traffic, and there was almost nothing I could do.

Another element that elevated this slippery situation into the arena of the “OH MY GOD” was the fact that I was blaring You, Whom I Have Always Hated, the recent collaborative album by The Body and Thou, at the time. I always listen to music in the car since I spend so much of my time in there, but the fact that I was listening to this particular album at this particular moment was almost hysterical in its irony. Here I was, spinning downhill, brakes locked, thinking that I was going to die while listening to this album that is almost comically fixated on death and destruction at an almost inexcusable volume. Let me put it this way, if this occurrence were a scene in a movie it would certainly have been slow-motion for maximum effect. Speed ramp that shit.

Then, at the pinnacle of my panic and right before smashing into an oncoming truck, my little blue car whipped back around and instead smashed into the guardrail on the right side of the road. (If you’ve ever wondered just how strong those tin-foil-looking rails are, it turns out, pretty damn strong.)

Eventually I reached the bottom of the hill, shaken, shaking, and probably a little crazy-eyed. I remember pulling over, putting my head back, and closing my eyes with The Body and Thou still raising hell, buzzing through my feeble car speakers. And as the metal blasted on the heels of this near-death experience, I also remember thinking about just how heavy these songs felt in my already weighted chest—and also maybe about the fact that Chip King does kind of sound like a woman screaming sometimes.

These are two metal bands at the peak of their careers, so listening to this album is already an intense experience on its own, and yet I had just had the fortune (I guess you could call it fortune) to forge an even more intense personal experience with it. It heightened my senses and pulled me in and turned what was already an unforgettable instance into an absurdly unforgettable one.

Last year The Body and Thou respectively put out I Shall Die Here and Heathen to critical acclaim with both albums arguably being the bands’ best material to date. Then, somewhere along the line and on the back of a successful tour, they also found time to come together on Released from Love, a cheeky little EP that managed to level the landscape while also whetting the appetites of voracious metal fans everywhere. Stressing that the release was a collaboration and not a split, the bands fused their sounds together into some grotesque monster supersound, melding metal with metal and sending it home on a hailstorm of riffs and punishing feedback. These two bands had thoroughly explored their own territories to a T and with Released from Love they instead turned their sites towards weathering the badlands in between their camps and staking it out for future damage.

That damage, as it turns out, arrives later this month in the form of You, Whom I Have Always Hated, the very album that carried me down that icy hill in a fit of squealing tires and human screams—both theirs and mine. To say that this album is heavy is the understatement of the year. Imagine hundreds of cords snaked across the floor plugged into stacks on stacks on stacks of massive amps. Now imagine the sheer weight of sound that would come barreling out of those speakers. The Body and Thou have found a way to harness that gargantuan energy and smelt it down into a brick of blistering brutality for no other reason than the fact that they could.

There is an air of “Yeah, let’s do it!” that permeates this whole album, and for as dark and depressing it can seem on the surface, it’s also an album that feels spontaneous, fun, and energetic. These guys aren’t pushing any boundaries, but honestly they aren’t trying to. We didn’t need this album, but it’s one that we got. And though I might be a tad bit hesitant to press play on it on my way to work tomorrow, I imagine that I’ll do it just the same. Plus I’m taking my dad’s car to work tomorrow while he’s out of town because, hey, had to get those tires replaced eventually.

You, Whom I Have Always Hated will be out on January 27th via Thrill Jockey.

Myrkur

"Skaði"

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Shrugging off the controversy that the revealing of her identity caused, Danish musician Amalie Bruun has opted to put her nose back to the grindstone and work on her proper debut album as Myrkur. Though her self-titled EP was released just a few short months ago, Amalie has already begun teasing out the direction of her upcoming album. Earlier this month she released a demo called “Skaði” that, while continuing her career on its current trajectory, also opens her songwriting up a bit and lets it breathe. It’s not clear yet whether “Skaði” will end up on this new album or if it’s just a way of her clearing her throat before really getting to work; but one thing’s for sure, this Myrkur thing is for real, and she’s not going anywhere.

Full of Hell & Merzbow

Full of Hell & Merzbow

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On paper, a Full of Hell and Merzbow collaboration is one that you might not necessarily consider. While the respective artists both tend towards all that is loud and noisy, you’d be forgiven for doing a double take when reading that this group of 20-something hardcore kids from the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania were collaborating with an almost sixty-year-old noise musician from Tokyo, Japan. But, alas, here we are and God knows stranger collaborations have happened. But now that it has happened, we get to sit back and reap the benefits of these possibly disparate artists working together. Well, maybe “sit back and enjoy” isn’t quite what you’ll be doing when you dig into this album. As the very first few seconds will show you, you’d probably do better to strap yourselves in and get ready. Fire and brimstone are about to rain down around you, and you’d better be prepared.

What’s funny is that a lot of websites that have been covering this release have been putting Merzbow’s name out in front. I suppose it helps with clicks to have a more recognizable artist in the forefront, but when listening to Full of Hell & Merzbow, it’s quite clear that this is mostly Full of Hell’s show. It’s not until halfway through the album on “Raise Thee, Great Wall, Bloody and Terrible” that the band puts their foot on the brake pedal a bit and reigns the punishing powerviolence back a bit for a hellish interlude of grating noise courtesy of Merzbow. So think of this collaboration more in the terms of I Shall Die Here, the album that The Body did with The Haxan Cloak earlier this year. Yes, there are two names on the bill, but one is very obviously bolstering the other. Merzbow, with his bag of tricks, is only sharpening the ragged edges that Full of Hell carve with their riffs and brutal screaming. They’ve rearranged the pieces and found a way to make them fit in a way that’s not only wholly successful, but oh so goddamn loud as well.

I don’t mean to downplay Merzbow’s contributions to this album either, though. He has very obviously added something to the water that has Full of Hell cranking the knobs up to eleven. The band has proven their salt on their previous material, with their last album Rudiments of Mutilation being an obvious standout, but on Full of Hell & Merzbow there is something stronger and more magical going on. You could chock it up to the band maturing as songwriters, but throwing Merzbow into the mix has also made things infinitely more interesting. The riffs pack more of a punch, the lows are deeper, and the band’s overall energy is even more ferocious than it’s ever been before. They are wild animals here and, much like the serum that Dr. Jekyll imbibed that turned him into the violent and hideous creature Mr. Hyde, Merzbow injected something visceral into the veins of Full of Hell, and the result is nothing short of apocalyptic.

Listening back through Full of Hell’s discography, which comes complete with their experimental noise series FOH Noise, and reading through interviews with the band, maybe it wasn’t so far-fetched that the paths of these two purveyors of noise became crossed after all. Full of Hell are documented fans of Merzbow and even have Merzbow-themed merchandise (or “Merzrip” as they call it). And in relation to this particular collaboration it’s crazy to think of all that the internet has afforded us in just a few short decades. In Full of Hell’s case, their idol-worship led to a cross-continental collaboration with one of their heroes, and every step of the way it was all born deep within the wires. And just think, if this unlikely pairing works so well now, the possibilities are endless in the future. All we’ve got to do is just sit back and watch them line up.

Full of Hell & Merzbow is out now via Profound Lore Records.