Monthly Archives: March 2016

New Music: Synthetic ID, Ciphers

Synthetic ID, “Ciphers” (Castle Face Records)

Synthetic ID are a band out of San Francisco, who have been releasing music since 2012, but are new to us.  Don’t know how we’ve missed them up ’til now.

“Ciphers” is a brilliant piece of spiky, funky post-punk, in the vein of Gang of Four and 154-era Wire, with a soupçon of Crass.  The track features a lurching, hypnotic bassline and angst-inducing guitar stabs; shouted vocals talk of searches and receipt of ciphers with “missing words”, incapable of translation and decoding – messages received but not trusted.  The peculiarly modern sensation of interconnectedness increasing isolation on our Big (Brother) Blue Marble – who’s real and what isn’t?  Fever dreams of electric sheep.

Synthetic ID’s debut, Impulses, is out April 22 on the consistently bodacious Castle Face Records. Check out the band’s earlier releases on their bandcamp page.

New Music: The December Sound, Real Reign

The December Sound, Real Reign (self-released, 3/11/2016)

Fantastic news that this long dormant Boston band has once again resurfaced.  Real Reign is a new, two-track release from The December Sound:  here’s hoping it’s a sign of more new things to come.

Lead track, “Speaking From Tomorrow” is a typically noisy cloudburst of a track.  Showcasing the band’s aural fission of shoegaze, industrial, drone and even a bit of britpop, the track thrums with a narcotic drumbeat, wall of noise guitars, and whispered vocals in the vein of Robert del Naja.  Second cut, “Just Let Go” shows a softer side, a psych drone and slow burning bassline reminiscent of Spacemen 3 or Loop slowly moprhing into a kaleidoscopic churn of, er, looped guitar effects and a mantra-like repetition of the titular refrain.

Real Reign is available now through on the band’s bandcamp.  In addition, you can – nay, should – now order The December Sound’s excellent 2007 debut, The Silver Album, directly from the band by messaging them via their Facebook page.

Album Review: Running, Wake Up Applauding

Running, Wake Up Applauding (Castle Face Records, 1/15/2016)

Blistering, relentless new long player from Chicago’s Running.

Building on 2013’s excellent Vaguely Ethnic and subsequent singles, Running return with another set of vertigo-inducing punk/psych/noise/drone/whateverit’sgoodsojustlisten.  Wake Up is a loud record that begs to be played loud:  layers upon layers of reverb and drone textures mix with the jagged shards of feedback; largely indecipherable, muzzled vocals at the center of the sonic maelstrom.  This is the soundtrack to a paranoid schizophrenic’s psychotic break,  careening blindly through dark alleys in search of respite from the voices, the shadowy figures emerging from formless shadows.  Tension, tension, tension.

The lightning ride manipulation of guitar feedback is even more up front than on past releases, like 2014’s Totally Fired.  The band’s sound still includes a fair bit of the scorched earth hardcore of early Black Flag and of more experimental bands like Flipper, as well as early doom metal (lots of circle pit bridges).  There’s also room for aggressive, PiL post-punk, spazzy noise a la bands like Scratch Acid, and even a bit of a ROIR tape Bad Brains vibe (particularly on “Fucktown Reality”).

The album art appears to be a cross-section of skin, with an arrow indicating “running” just beneath the surface of the derma.  Appropriate, somehow, for a record that burrows deep.

Wake Up Applauding is out now, on Castle Face Records.  Since it’s basically impossible to find much of anything about this band – they have a Soundcloud page, in addition to the bio page on the Castle Face website – here’s hoping for some advance notice when next they emerge from the lab and tour.

Highlights include:  “We Never Close”, “Fucktown Reality”, “Wake Up Applauding”, “Art Seen”, “No Wave Jose”.

Album Review: Choke Chains, S/T

Choke Chains, S/T (Slovenly Recordings/Black Gladiator, 1/29/16)

Full throttle, stridently miscreant rock and/or roll from Michigan’s Choke Chains.  Hints of proto-punk standard bearers The Stooges and Electric Eels, garage idols The Sonics and newer bands like Rocket From the Crypt can be heard throughout (perhaps unsurprising, given the band features alumni of bands like The Dirtbombs and Bantam Rooster), but the band makes room for their own, individual spin.

The groove-centered, r&b swagger on display is infectious, though the music feels more in the ‘punk’ vein than straight garage.  There are some cool production touches, too – the heavy, loose-stringed bass sound is great (particularly on “Let’s Try Suicide”), and the sax stylings on the understated “Rock, Paper, Rapist” are a welcome addition to the sound.  In case you hadn’t already surmised, the band like to play with tongues firmly implanted in cheek – other titles include “Cracked Dracula”, “Moisture Detective” and “Safe Word”.

Eruditely-monikered lead singer Thomas Jackson Potter’s vocals are heavily muffled on many tracks, painting an image of the band bashing away in a supposedly “abandoned”, makeshift practice space, while Potter screams for recognition (vengeance?) from an underground bunker – or maybe that’s just me…  Other tracks lift the veil a bit, with “Random Number Generator” even featuring a hint of – !!!- falsetto.  Throughout, Potter displays charisma to match the band’s assured playing.

The album is out now through the excellent Slovenly Recordings (via their Black Gladiator imprint).  Get to know the band on fbook and on their bandcamp page. While you’re at it, check out the meaty (sorry) vid for “Safe Word”, below, and catch them at their upcoming March 26 gig at the UFO Factory in Detroit, if you’re able – here’s hoping for a tour!

Highlights include: “She Collects Calendars”; “Safe Word”, “Rock Paper Rapist”.

Review: Manhattan Love Suicides, Bikini Party/Birthday Kill 7″

The Manhattan Love Suicides, Bikini Party/Birthday Kill 7” (Odd Box Records, 1/15/2016)

We here at thegrindinghalt have been remiss in not expressing our joy at the return of Leeds, UK’s Manhattan Love Suicides, a band we loved during their first run; in particular, their eponymous 2006 debut and the follow-on extended single for “Kick It Back”.  The band’s new 7”, featuring a-side “Bikini Party/Birthday Kill”, comes hot on the heels of last summer’s excellent return album, More Heat! More Panic!

“Bikini” features paint-scraping peals of feedback and distortion o’er a whipcrack drum sound reminiscent of the JAMC.  Singer Caroline’s sneering vocals reply “unable to attend” (in a not-so-nice way) to the aforementioned party in favor of a “good birthday kill”. Emily Post would not approve. Emily Post can do one.

The very ‘80s hardcore-titled, composite b-side (so many slashes!) “Deserted Coastal Town/Action&Memory/What Am I Supposed To Do?” – think of it like the indie rock version of a German compound word – showcase different sides of the band.  The book ends here are both highlights:  ballad “Deserted” has bit of a Smiths vibe with its jangled chords and orchestrated chorus, while “What” is a delightfully short, sweet, fuzzy kick in the face.

The single is available now at the MLS bandcamp page, via Odd Box Records.  You can also check out the band here. Earlier releases can be found via Magic Marker Records and Squirrel Records – do yourself the favor.

New Music: bummed, smoking jewels

bummed, “smoking jewels” 7” (self-released, 3/13/2016)

A lovely slice of swooning dream-pop/shoegaze from Somerville, MA’s bummed (we’ve retained the band’s e.e. cummings approach to punctuation – please refrain from rioting with pitchforks and copies of Strunk & White).

This new single sees the band moving away from the more lo-fi aspects of their 2014 self-titled release (which is also well worth checking out).  A-side, “smoking jewels” features a jangly, finger-picked guitar melody over a muscular, start/stop rhythm; sheer, largely indecipherable vocals are dead center in the mix, swaddled in reverb.  B-side, “no reward” adds peals of feedback and a more steady, driving beat.

The 7” – as well as a digital version – is available now via the band’s Bandcamp page; hopefully, it’s a teaser for a new long-player. Check them out there, and here.