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Noel's Straight Hedge

Noel’s Straight Hedge: Your Punk & Hardcore Roundup For August
Noel Gardner , August 29th, 2018 09:16

This month, clear your pipes and cleanse your chakras with Trappist, Sauna Youth, Photogenic and Pascagoula

To round off summer, we begin in trepidation with thrash trio Trappist as they, perhaps unexpectedly, sing the praises of craft beer and we end with an Arse that is not Finnish and some Norwegian noisecore. Listen to our beautiful mix, above, and read/hear more about it, below.

What if I were to tell you, as you crack your tin of cooking lager, that you ought to have gone for something esoteric and pricier from the buoyant craft beer scene? You would tell me to fuck off and mind my own business. How about if I gave you that same message in the medium of a gruff crossover thrash song called ‘No Corporate Beer’, like American trio Trappist have on their debut album Ancient Brewing Tactics (Relapse)? A good tune can mask a bad take; luckily you don’t need to give a toss about beer nerd culture to enjoy this album, even though that’s its guiding theme.

Trappist are all hardcore lifers, most readily associated with the powerviolence subgenre: Chris Dodge arguably made it what it is via his label Slap-A-Ham and bands including Spazz and Lack Of Interest, Phil Vera played guitar in LA’s vicious Despise You and Ryan Harkins was in the noteworthy if less influential Killed In Action. Each has, at some point, developed a taste for drinking microbrews with double-figure ABVs and names so long you’ll still be ordering while your pals have drained their Red Stripe. I enjoy all this cobblers too, see, so can hardly be ungrateful for a creative artefact that combines two of my interests, even though the ‘beer pairing’ list for each of Ancient Brewing Tactics’ 20 songs serves mainly as a braggart’s charter (you’ll be lucky to find more than a few in the UK, and some fetch absurd prices on the collectors’ market; Dodge has admitted swapping a record collecting habit for a craft beer obsession, which seems relevant).

There are some good jokes: ‘No Soldier Left Behind’ is a Discharge-style anti-war thunderer, except ‘soldier’ is used in the slang sense of an abandoned, unfinished beer. ‘Victims Of A Bomber Raid’ includes the impressive lyric “All laid to waste by brettanomyces / No one is left as far as the eye sees”; ‘Wolves In The Taproom’ upbraids “douchebag jock” bands discovering the marketing potential in craft beer co-promo, and while names are not named I’d imagine there to be a greater than zero chance of another Relapse band being among them. Common annoyances among those neck-deep in craft culture – startups who sell to conglomerates at the first opportunity; the Reinheitsgebot, or ancient German beer purity laws; anyone who queues up to buy something from a brewery – are all addressed with few minced words and ample speed’n’chug, sometimes powerviolent but more often party thrash, fast hardcore or rockin’ grind.

Which does all help me overcome my inner conflict as regards enjoying a hardcore record about a hobby, one with issues (unexplored here) around class and gentrification among other things. Going back to ‘No Corporate Beer’: “Wake up all you crusties covered in filth and mud / You claim to hate the big corporations, but then you go drink Bud.” As sentiments go this isn’t wrong as such, more… Marie Antoinette-ish.

Richard Phoenix of Sauna Youth recently wrote a brief but highly cogent tract titled DIY As Privilege, and while it isn’t about being able to afford expensive indie ales, the phrase could – I feel – be reappropriated to that end. It draws chiefly on Phoenix’s experience supporting the learning disabled scene, which has led to bands including Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät and the Fish Police touring the UK and vastly increased this community’s broad visibility. Sauna Youth, as a project, isn’t activist in quite this way, but the London quartet’s third album Deaths (Upset The Rhythm) both demonstrates and provokes thought – on one’s position in 2018 as artists, employees, city dwellers and people in a politically progressive milieu.

Never punk qua punk in sound, and possessing an apparent ‘in’ with a larger booking agency or two (they’re touring with Protomartyr around the time this column is published), Sauna Youth have nevertheless maintained close kinship with the London DIY underbelly. Deaths, too, is their punkiest-sounding album to date – the only two songs to wind down their tempo are ‘The Patio’ and ‘Swerve’, both readings from a short story. Elsewhere, amid 12 songs averaging just over two minutes a pop, the group – Phoenix, Jen Calleja, Lindsay Corstorphine and Christopher Murphy – use repetition like a krautrock or rural blues ensemble, but within a punk frame. There are some great noisy solos, ‘In Flux’ notably, and experimentalism that doesn’t necessitate abandoning their blueprint: ‘No Personal Space’ is studded with samples of a Sauna Youth practice, one of the more melodic songs gatecrashed by grub-fi amp distortion, and ‘Problems’’ lyric sheet is the title repeated in garbled fashion while the song gradually collapses into itself. Great album, and reputedly the last of a series by the band – hopefully not the last outright, but a loose sense of finality and sociocultural exasperation does make that feel plausible.

Took a punt on this CB Radio Gorgeous cassette because… heck, I don’t recall why. Maybe because Not Normal Tapes, who released it, have pressed some peaches previously (the G.L.O.S.S. demo and everything by The Bug spring to mind) and their Bandcamp spiel mentions Delta 5 and X (the Australian one). I wouldn’t have thought of either, but that’s less important than discovering that Plays CB Radio Gorgeous is a total smash, garage rock with postpunk leanness and played at hardcore velocity. Vocalist Anna Kinderman sings with a powerful if mildly distressed yawp that recalls two recent greats in this field, Maryjane Dunphe of Vexx and Grace Ambrose in Neon; a swift Google reveals that Kinderman is the only CBRG member who I’d not already encountered, with other members cropping up in the thrashy Big Zit and Trouble In Mind-signed Negative Scanner – plus, most interestingly to me, Jill Flanagan, who made a wizard din as part of Coughs in the 00s and has since made confrontational and cool-looking art concerning her experiences as a trans woman. Not sure what she’s actually playing in this band, but they amount to a vice-tight unit warranting hype of the good kind.

The impetus for the formation of Signal, say the band, was a shared sense of being “outsiders in the NYC punk scene”. Mentioning this at the very start of your Bandcamp bio verges on the passive-aggressive, but I don’t dispute the assertion: theirs isn’t a name I’ve heard dropped by anyone bands might want their name dropped by, but their eponymous 7-inch debut (Ramp Local) is a satisfying spurt of gawky guitar noise that could be enjoyed equally by acolytes of the Toxic State mutantcore mob and urgent postpunkers like, say, Lithics. ‘Rat Pink Eye’ opens with a spoken anecdote about vocalist Aida Riddle seeing some kids playing on a big rock this one time and closes with 30 seconds of commendable blasphemy about Jesus Christ’s inability to bring her sexual enjoyment. ‘BLL’ and ‘Want It Worse’ are concluded with, respectively, Riddle’s toddler-voiced taunting and unsettling sob-laughter; Signal’s musicians certainly have enough hectic snap to complement her, but she certainly feels like the factor that make these five songs worthy of investigation.

A few columns back I was delighted to review not one but three tapes featuring Bryony Beynon – Welsh punk lynchpin of London, relocated to Australia – and now here’s another. Photogenic are five women, located in Sydney and featuring Beynon on drums and recording duties; this seven-song demo is a refreshingly inexact jumble of lots of nice things, including stubbed-toe anarcho rhythms, sullen goth basslines, embryonic chaos a la Fatal Microbes or Raooul and bozo pogo with polka-gone-rogue percussion (this is ‘Triple Adidas’, tied with ‘Give It A Rest Mate’ for best title). It also has a mirrored sticker on the cover, thankfully too low quality to see my face in. A treat, all told! Photogenic are ones to watch, while coming with footnotes that (a) Beynon is now back in the UK (and hopefully getting various old gangs back together, or forming new ones) and (b) the other members, assuming they intend to continue, all use daffy punk pseudonyms so I, a Pom schlub, dunno who they are.

Telekinesis stuck this four-song demo online late last year, but as it remains their only shared product to date and was recently released on cassette by new label Cold Comfort, here’s a review. Their location, Brighton, has become a seriously toasty incubator for new hardcore bands in the last two years – see also Never, Gutter Knife, Vile Spirit, Unease and State Funeral among others – which, while surely desirable, means candidates have to actually stand out, rather than simply be swept along by the thrill of belonging. Telekinesis, who I believe share one or more members with Vile Spirit, achieve this by being gurgly bugeyed weirdos. Sure, their songs have demonstrable HC tropes like slowed-down mosh parts (‘Dripping’), breaks where everything drops out apart from the guitar (‘Post Civilisation’) and a long(er) song at the end with miserable lyrics (‘Prescription’), but the rhythms and time changes are as unpredictable as an oily floor and the vocals are smack in that post-Lumpy & The Dumpers squawk-punk ‘nuum. Other checkable names: Void, Die Kreuzen, Dry Rot, a band I’m going to review in a minute… ‘mysterious guy hardcore’ is back, tell a friend.

Pascagoula are also from Brighton, and if their comings and goings aren’t entirely distinct from the likes of Telekinesis, they’re set apart by (a) playing agonised sludgy noiserock that leaks feedback like motor oil and (b) being rooted in pretty much a different generation of UK underground blare. Vocalist Ross Sargeant used to play bass in Trencher, warmly recalled London crypto-grinders who were like a budget rock version of the Locust; bass duties here fall to Adam Hansford, once guitarist for undervalued post-hardcore Brightonians Charlottefield. Other members also like to play post-rock and ambient drone, and you might be able to draw a deep listeners’ line from each other project to Pascagoula, but The Path / The Cross / The Aftermath (Dry Cough / Badlads) is its own beast.

Sargeant is a compelling vocalist, if not exactly unique in the noiserock canon – seasick and singsongy on ‘Kiss The Ground’, low-bawling like the child of Aaron Turner and Eugene Robinson during ‘Radium Girls’. Dave Hamilton-Smith’s guitar style walks a pleasing tightrope, in that it recalls lots of metal-identified things – Harvey Milk certainly, Eyehategod at times, Moloch perhaps – without ever tipping Pascagoula into clear metal status themselves. Meaning I can definitely cover them in Straight Hedge. There’s a bit in the middle of ‘Screw’ that sounds like an unconscious crib from The Jesus Lizard’s ‘One Evening’, but it’s hardly a dealbreaker when most of The Path...’s surrounding bulk is this gnarled and dense.

Here’s some more of that zonged-out, colour-outside-the-lines, cut-off-oxygen-to-the-brain hardcore I promised! It’s by Pious Faults, who are from Brisbane, in their early twenties judging by photos, and wholly unknown to me until US label Feel It unveiled their vinyl debut, a 45 rpm 12-inch Old Thread. (They also appear to have a lathe cut 7-inch coming out very soon, featuring a Sleaford Mods cover, which I can only begin to envisage.) Screeching across lanes from Meat Puppets psych-thrash (‘Site’) to Dawson/God Is My Co-Pilot jazzcore extrapolations to early Shit & Shine bassnoise lousy with overdubs (‘Worship The Surface’ parts I and II, respectively) to wriggly skronk-mope like Bl’ast if they’d spent about 80% less time learning their instruments (‘Longevity’)… yeah, this is extremely my vibe. There’s blown-out vox (often delivered shirtless, again going on that photographic evidence) and instrumental velocity and yeah, all of Pious Faults are boys but Old Thread is way too brittle-boned and awkward to come off as blokey hardcore. (With the disclaimer that such things are in the eye of the beholder, and it’s advisable to centre one’s own beholder status as little as possible.)

Sewing a button on yet another Australia-heavy edition of this column, Primitive Species, the debut record by Sydney’s Arse, enters the room. That’s Arse, that’s the song ‘Bugger’ by Arse, the song ‘Dog’ by Arse, two amusingly juxtaposed titles among seven echo-streaked goth/’core mindmelds which, while not without analogues in modern DIY punk, leave some of the darkest scorch marks.

I reviewed a solo album by Jonathan Boulet, Arse’s guitarist and co-vocalist, about four years ago and seem to recall it being his transition from accessible indie-folkie to something more like, say, McLusky. Dude’s clearly got the bug, cos Primitive Species (originally a cassette on the band’s own label Grupo late last year and now pressed to 12-inch for Europe by Erste Theke Tontraeger) is another order of magnitude noisier. Man-on-the-edge vox and lethally swirling guitar over crust punk drums meet superamped uber-Aussie Feedtime/King Snake Roost noiserawk tendencies and lyrics like “WAKE UP EVERY DAY AND IT’S THE SAME / REALITY IS PRESSURING MY BRAIN.” Both sides finish with some gloopy unrock noodling, to cement the fried-head lysergic vibes embedded in this disc and ensure that the Geld LP has some competition for best Australian psychedelic hardcore release of 2018. If you like Anasazi, Disjoy or Sarcasm, to name only three, this record is the living end (not the band The Living End).

For anyone out there disappointed that this Arse is not the early 90s Finnish noisecore band also called Arse, here is a review of a Norwegian noisecore 7-inch to finish this month. Krig Mot Norge is by Parlamentarisk Sodomi, is co-released by the Superfi, Snack Ohm Tapes and Deaf Death Husky labels and finds Steinar Kittilsen – appraised last column as part of Brutal Blues, and before that in his guise as Psudoku – coupling with a vocalist, Hålgård Kalverud, for a rash of sub-60-second grotty grinders on the A-side. Which are more than serviceable, yet it’s the flip where stakes get high – deranged micromicroblasts of extremity lasting only a few seconds each and grouped into longer clusters to meet pressing plant necessity. For better or worse – real noisecore heads will reckon the latter – it’s not wholesale anti-music, and packs a steelier bite than the last noteworthy ‘grindcore band release a zillion-song record’ thing I can think of, Insect Warfare’s Noise Grind Power Death. Also, there’s a closeup photo of an arsehole on the cover, and I’m not talking about [public figure of your choice here].