Reviews

Distort Reality

Attack SS Mask of Those EP

Oh, wow. Wall-of-noise, energy-rush, noise not music, spiked hardcore. An advanced seminar of sound production, due to its on-full spotlight. ATTACK SS is not always fast on this record but even then the loudness, the blasted-echo cave drums, the grooves shaking the room of the record from wall to wall are making the whole 7” so dense it is overloading my senses and places me into the middle of their own chaos. Although ATTACK SS’s chaos is not confusing, it solely operates with huge objects to test my impulse control that tends to surrender. All four songs are bit different enough to make the EP an adventure while a 45 with this production level would be easy to get away with, though they put enough creative energy to the writing as much as only the final number contains an LP-full of ideas. They prove their capabilities in different fields, whether it be a machine-gun-like tempo race in the opening track or a groovy, heavy-crusher mid-tempo number. This is a beast and they are able to control it, with a precision demonstrated by the stop and go parts of the aforementioned closing track. ATTACK SS is up there on the same shelf as FRAMTID, GLOOM, D-CLONE. Buy this and wish for a full-length. 

Frenzy Frenzy 12″

FRENZY is a band with many admirable qualities: they’re consistent, hardworking, and they’ve got a unique approach to graphic design, but their greatest quality is that they understand their genre and style much better than almost any other band going, and they express that understanding by having fun! Go back to the noisepunk godheads like DISORDER, CHAOS UK and CHAOTIC DISCHORD, and you don’t find a bunch of po-faced sad sacks talking earnestly about issues or (even worse) preening and styling and thinking themselves superior to their audience. You find a bunch of friends taking the piss, enjoying beer and noize. I have never seen FRENZY not enjoy themselves onstage, and I’ve never heard a FRENZY record that doesn’t bring a smile to my face. To be fair, their lyrics do touch on serious and important topics, but they always leave plenty of room to honor the essential ridiculousness of the style. This, their first 12” record, is easily the best of their output so far: stripped-down and proceeding at a pace somewhere between lurch and lope, with the wildest solos yet. One of the best of the year so far for sure!

Physique The Evolution of Combat LP

Holy shit! Olympia’s PHYSIQUE does it again, this time in a style more strongly influenced by DISCLOSE than before. Unlike their demo or their first LP, Punk Life Is Shit, every track feels more streamlined, including their eponymous track, which was previously featured on their demo. There’s no escape from the raw cacophony, almost no lulls at all during the entire album. The songs themselves are deceptively simple, but upon further listening reveal tons of small changes and variations throughout. It’s this attention to songwriting (and not just their status as an all-AMAB trans band) that separates them from the herd of fuckers that worship Kawakami. The lyrics are great, and live up to the title by describing the various ways that warfare, discrimination, and police brutality (among others) are changing in order to remain an ever-present threat to daily life. A dark, yet essential record.

Physique The Rhythm of Brutality 10″

If you aren’t already familiar with this band from their LP or 12″, they play raw, blown-out hardcore in the style of Japanese bands like FRAMTID or KRIEGSHÖG, who were in turn playing a more distorted version of the hardcore style of Swedish bands like CRUDITY and ANTI-CIMEX. Here you will revel in a thick and distorted guitar sound, but thankfully not overly distorted where the riffs are buried in a wall of feedback. The bass has a raw, chunky clunk and the drums are hammered like obstinate nails. The coarse vocals have the just the right amount of reverb on them to sound like they are being shouted at you from the bottom of a well but not from another dimension. In total, the compositions, production, and overall vibe of this release are outstanding. It doesn’t fall into any of the traps or excesses of the genre but remains finely balanced between total raw noise and something more musical. Powerful and invigorating, the intensity of the music contrasts somewhat with the lyrics’ bleak outlook. There is an underlying current of despair and misery in the lyrics while expressing the yearning to break free and rebel. As with many bands of this genre, I find the music really gets the blood pumping and forms a direct mental and emotional link to a desire to break free and run wild. But the lyrics about depression and despair keep bringing us back to what we are rebelling against rather than the freedom we are striving for. I was out of town when these guys played Minneapolis and really regret not seeing them live.

Rubble Parts Per Million EP

If any record crossing my turntable in the last year has made me feel extra sad that we can’t be in a room dancing together for the foreseeable future, it’s this one. RUBBLE incorporates the unstoppable enthusiasm for punk that Portland bands seem to be able to perennially channel. They pull from the most fun, bouncy parts of street punk and Oi!, and smash them together with eerie, melodic vocals, reminiscent of LOST CHERREES. This release is more melodic and has a little more nuance than the band’s earlier records. It’s challenging to make songs that are thoughtful and fun, but still have a punk edge, and RUBBLE has definitely done it. Definitely something to check out!

Skitklass 世界の平等さようなら EP

Another fun little banger from Japan’s SKITKLASS. As with their many previous releases, this is energetic råpunk putting you in a time machine to Sweden in 1982. One of the most endearing things about this band is their retro guitar tone. Rather than a tuned-down, blown-out wall of distortion, we get the raw, jangly tone of the early ’80s. You could best compare this to bands like MISSBRUKARNA or HEADCLEANERS. The song structure fits in more with the aggressive style of ANTI CIMEX or SHITLICKERS, but the overall vibe is one of punk rather than hardcore—a subtle but important distinction to my ears. Lyrics are in Japanese, but I don’t think they are making any bold political statements. They continue the bondage mask motif from previous releases (which was TERVEET KÄDET’s skeez when you think about it). The standout track for me was “Animal Ghost.”

The Tits Great Punk Tits LP

Rare moment in contemporary living when a band that formed in 2016 and has around eight different releases is unavailable on the internet, so people like me have to wait until the post-demo section of their discography gets released on a compilation. It is also tricky how you think of a country’s sound in a historical perspective, and how it is represented by current bands. I spent a great part of the previous years listening to loud flexis coming from Japan and I have not always succeeded when I tried to find present bands with sonic similarities. TITS was promised to sound like a modern version of pre-Stupid Life-era CONFUSE. It puts their predecessors into context as well, because when noise-core is made in a studio that’s output is not limited to cacophony, it takes away the chaotic randomness and all its magical mystery of the music. I like the loudest, noisiest groups because their glory is based on the chilling risk of failure, and while for normal people it is terrible shit, for me it is a great cultural achievement. TITS’ music is not adventurous, although it is good, since them and us are mutual fans of the same thing. That thing is reduced to a certain sound, an era, instead of an approach or method of expressions, therefore all enthusiasm is curbed; adventures turn to rituals. Despite it being decent, and for today rare music, it exists within well established grounds. To detail those grounds: some tracks have both guitars on full blast, linked to a chain gang of pedals; other numbers let dumb melodies sneak in, carried by a less distorted bass, that is a great nod to the best/most ignorant contrasting sound; very traditional. The cartoonish evil voice of the singer pairs perfectly with the ridiculously exaggerated noizzze. You really cannot go wrong with TITS if you dig this type of hardcore, and being an extensive collection of different records it is divertingly amusing how the course of track-packs mutate. The band is overshadowed by their forerunners, but instead TITS being a paraphrase, they turn the spotlight on their subjects of worship.

Zyanose Total End of Existence LP

What can I say to start, I love ZYANOSE and what a perfect title for a record. I was fortunate to see them in SF, Oakland, and Brooklyn, and they decimated each time. I’ve actually been listening to the Crossing EP a lot lately too, so this assignment comes at an opportune gloomy early-year time, when I need ZYANOSE again. Total End of Existence comes to us from December 2019 but I regrettably have not picked up a release since their Putrid Sick Society LP. This is thirteen tracks of rhythmic, frothing, grotesque, beautiful, furious stenchcore. As a comparison to previous ZYANOSE releases, it is more contained and stylized, dare I say catchy. ZYANOSE to me has always played with an optimistic blend of losing one’s mind, a search for oneself without a care in the world, and complete sonic turmoil. Tracks are short, stabbing, jolting, and unique to one another. Rhythms change up, all hell breaks loose, until you are scooped up again by some brilliant sections and earthly-transcending talons of artistic freedom. My favorite track is the longest, “Silence II,” which is anything but, followed by an amalgamation of ideas that all stir in the soup of crushing noise. Pretty much every track is as a hook flies by your nose and just slices you on the bridge without fully tugging out a nostril. Totally crasher-crust I want to understand, fully immerse into, but is far beyond my comprehension and constantly leaves me behind. I mean, there is a song literally called “Gggggg.” Toward the end, in “I.N.R.D.D.,” ZYANOSE takes on their final form. Totally destroying and lovely oceans of grinding amps in my ears. Total freedom. Seriously, the last four tracks might be the greatest achievement on here. This album feels like a transformation from beginning to end. ZYANOSE is that good and remains so on this latest album.