Album of the Day: Various Artists, “Post Now: Round One, Chicago vs. New York”

In the mid ’90s, Chicago’s Skin Graft label provided a home for a slew of noise-rock, post-no wave (dubbed “now wave”), skronky prog- and art-rock, and other musically indescribable acts. This compilation, which serves as a kind of restatement of purpose, features two songs each from a number of the label’s notable alumni (including Cheer-Accident and The Flying Luttenbachers), alongside tracks by newer, like-minded bands. The Flying Luttenbachers re-record one older song (“Demonic Velocities”) and deliver one all-new one (“Prelude To Mutation”); Cheer-Accident offer a King Crimson-gone-funk tune (“War Is A Warrior”) and a dreamy ballad (“Site”); and Cellular Chaos deliver two shrill, caterwauling pieces that keep the rock in noise-rock.

One group making its debut here, before releasing a full-length album at month’s end, is Skryptor, the kinda-sorta all-star trio of former Dazzling Killmen guitarist Tim Garrigan, former Craw bassist David McClelland, and STATS drummer Hank Shteamer (also a highly respected music journalist/critic). Their music is crushingly heavy, meant to be played as loud as possible; “Red Mountain” is pure arena-rock shred madness, with massive, Steve Albini-sized drums (actual engineering and mixing: Colin Marston).

The sequencing works very well, as immediately palatable acts are followed by noisier and more aggressive ones and vice versa. As a result, the ultra-aggro stuff (the Flying Luttenbachers, Child Abuse) seems even more like a kick in the ear, while Bobby Conn’s novelty pop songs are less jarring when plopped between Skryptor and Cellular Chaos than they’d otherwise be. The net effect reaffirms the label’s historical dedication to the avant-garde, while keeping its eyes firmly fixed on the present.

-Philip Freeman

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