Tag Archives: Post-Punk

Suicide’s Martin Rev on Making Music Out of History

Martin Rev

Photo by Divine Enfant.

It’s not easy to summarize the vast musical history of 69-year-old groundbreaker Martin Rev, but his new album Demolition 9 does a pretty good job. Across 34 tracks—most of them less than two minutes long—Rev skates through jazz, classical, doo-wop, R&B, punk, industrial, and the many uncategorizable styles he coined as founding member of pioneering post-punk duo Suicide.

Demolition 9 feels like a concept album—perhaps a score to a musical about Rev’s life—but, for him, there was no concept beyond making new music. “I was just following my ear, which is what I do in everything I work on,” he says, speaking over the phone from his home in New York City. “It’s all about playing around. I’m like a kid playing with toys, assembling his own little arrangement out of stuff that doesn’t make any sense to anyone else but him.”

That playfulness is clear on Demolition 9. Rev will jump from a swelling symphonic piece to a swinging pop ditty, then cut to a jarring blast of noise or a pounding storm of electronics. There are serious moods throughout the record, but there’s also lots of fun to be had. Take “Tuba,” a bouncy piece that could soundtrack a Bugs Bunny cartoon. “The sounds of certain instruments—horns, tubas, bassoon—always have an angelic or innocent humor for me,” admits Rev.

The many modes of Demolition 9 reflect Rev’s lifelong devotion to music. Born in New York in 1947, Rev first fell in love with the doo-wop and R&B songs he heard kids his age playing and singing in the streets. In his teen years he turned to jazz, watching legends like Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane in Manhattan nightclubs, and taking piano lessons from bebop innovator Lennie Tristano.

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Terminal Consumption: The Best Punk on Bandcamp, May 2017

Terminal Consumption

In this installment of Terminal Consumption, our monthly reviews column focused on the margins of punk and hardcore, Sam Lefebvre considers Kaleidoscope’s lovely hostility and Anxiety’s anticipated sophomore release, plus new releases by Leisure World, Marbled Eye, and Mutual Jerk.

Kaleidoscope, Volume 3 CS/12” [D4MT Labs/Feel It]

Shiva Addanki’s visual art often involves streaks and splotches of black ink, textured by crude reproduction, which is a good accompaniment to the trippy-yet-mean music of his band, Kaleidoscope. The New York trio, which Addanki leads on guitar, is workmanlike and consistent: they’ve issued several lengthy cassettes since 2015, mostly self-released, all of which boast an unfussy, production line title-scheme (Volume One, Volume Two, Vol. 2 No. 2, etc.). The members play in other bands, live together in Brooklyn, and record in the basement. And the recordings, fraught with errant noise, reliably convey menace and amorphous sounds alike—call it “thuggish psych.”

It’s become common lately for punk and hardcore groups to invoke psychedelia, perhaps finding it a good catchall—now that “post-punk” elicits groans—for newfound formal ambition or electronic predilections. Volume 3 is full of generous echo and burbling flourishes, which sometimes overtake the riffs, evoking the 13th Floor Elevators’ electric jug by way of Chrome’s proto-industrial clank. But the group’s strength is still careening wildness; what produces the most disorienting effect is that, like so much rousing punk, the players probe the threshold of order without splintering apart.

A frantic, galloping rhythm, on “Cloud Control” gives way to a trudging mid-tempo passage where the vocalist’s halting, marble-mouthed syllables sound wonderfully hostile. And the fragments of forbidding guitar that begin “Simulator” typify Addanki’s moodily dynamic playing, which veers between frenetic riffing and frosty melodies, not unlike the style of Link Wray. This tension—between an apparent wish to muddle the music, and players too feisty for that to really occur—charges the whole of Kaleidoscope’s expanding catalogue.

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Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus on the Value of Mystery and Sacredness

Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus

Photo by Maria Aua.

It feels cliché at this point to describe the music of the U.K. group Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus as a “shared secret,” but in the early ’90s, that’s exactly what it was. Their albums seemed to materialize out of nowhere. You heard about them from a friend who heard about them from another friend, who happened to have a burned CD that they’d loan you for a week so you could make your own. (To wit: I was a fan of the band for decades before I knew what the cover of their haunting 1987 masterpiece The Gift of Tears even looked like). Not only were there no interviews, the band wasn’t even written about, not even by the fledgling alt-music press. If you travelled in Christian circles, as I did, they had an almost occult aura; their music drew on Christian and religious themes, but their name came from director Luis Buñuel’s film That Obscure Object of Desire, and they could just as easily have been witches as saints. The lack of any kind of public presence only caused their eerie mystique to grow.

Listening to the group’s two albums—the only works to their name—only added to the mystery. Mirror, from 1991, recently reissued by Occultation Records, felt like the soundtrack to some unsettling ritual, taking place in a deep wood late at night. Their songs were built around ominous, chant-like vocals, full of chilling acoustic guitars, baleful, minor-key synths, and melodies that drew heavily on Medieval modalities. Nowadays, we might call their music “folk horror;” in the ’90s, it felt almost forbidden.

And then, just as quietly as they appeared, they vanished. Even after the arrival of the Internet, information about them was scant—just a few bare-bones fan-created websites (which usually employed white text on a black background), which generally contained brief summaries of their history with no concrete details. But all of that changed in 2015, when the band reappeared after a 20-year absence with Beauty Will Save the World, a record that is just as gorgeous and harrowing as any they made during their initial run. The news of their reactivation travelled much in the same way their music did the first time: via emails from friends, or posts in small-ish Internet interest groups. And while it’s certainly easier to learn about the band now—they even have a Facebook page—their music has retained all of its spectral beauty and glorious ambiguity. We sat down with Jon Egan who, along with Paul Boyce and Leslie Hampson, form the group’s core membership, to discuss their history, and how creating mystery isn’t just a PR stunt—it’s the very core of their art.

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Terminal Consumption: The Best Punk on Bandcamp, April 2017

Terminal Consumption
In this installment of Terminal Consumption, our monthly reviews column focused on the margins of punk and hardcore, Sam Lefebvre examines the latest inventive full-length by Los Angeles trio Behavior, plus new releases by Housewives and Exit Order.

Behavior, Bitter Bitter LP [Iron Lung]

Bitter Bitter is the work of three sensitive, clever players with an irreverent take on punk convention. The second album by Los Angeles trio Behavior, Bitter Bitter follows last year’s 375 Images of Angels. A spirit of possibility animates both records, but where Behavior’s debut reconfigures punk and hardcore tropes so that they sound alien, this one jettisons them almost entirely; if it’s post-punk, it’s post-punk not as a twist on punk, but as a challenge to its musical conservatism.

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French Vanilla on the Los Angeles DIY Scene

French Vanilla

Photo by Adam Sandor Nagy.

French Vanilla are here to change your mind about Los Angeles punk. The forward-thinking, radical quartet are invite you to shake a tail to songs that make strong statements about the dominant structures of power that dominate both the mainstream and underground spheres.

Made up of vocalist Sally Spitz, guitarist Ali Day, saxophonist and bassist Daniel Trautfield, and drummer Max Albeck, and formed while Day and Spitz were students at UCLA, French Vanilla have steadily built up a fanbase with their uncompromising and thoroughly infectious music, which is just as much informed by performance art as it is by the post-punk music they set out to emulate (Day learned to play guitar specifically for the band and still doesn’t know basic chords.)

Though they didn’t plan it this way, French Vanilla are part of a new crop of LA artists making a distinct turn away from the garage and psych music that has dominated the city in recent years for music that is as much about the message as the medium. The band’s chosen subjects, ranging from global warming and feminism to the embarrassment of adolescence and patriarchal ideologies, may be challenging but their music is not, hallmarked by groove-laden, danceable rhythms, Day’s quirky guitar lines, Trautfield’s crisp saxophone blasts, and Spitz’s wailing, powerful vocals and whirling dervish live presence. Their new music video for “Evolution of a Friendship,” which we premiere here, was filmed in various  locations around Los Angeles, including famed DIY venue The Smell, perfectly encapsulates the band’s humor, visual sensibility, and connection to the LA underground music scene.

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