Tag Archives: Punk

Toronto’s Plasmalab on Spaces, Places, and Memes

Plasmalab

Photo by Mark Fragua.

Toronto trio Plasmalab’s snarling, squealing sludge-punk fires guttural rage at a broken world, while at the same time laughing at its absurdity. Like Jennifer Herrema fronting Flipper, with the hotwired repulsion of Crime, Plasmalab’s barrage of warped riffs and grinding low-end repetition is dosed with an acid blast of skin-peeling screams.

Band members Jacqueline Lachance and Katie Hernandez first met at NSCAD University Nova Scotia College of Art & Design, and now trade off on guitar, bass, and vocals with drummer Morgan Dowler keeping the bash-beat steady. Their debut LP Love / Life, out now on Bruised Tongue, delivers knockouts throughout. Some are as short as 46 seconds, but the band truly goes the distance on 11-minute slugfest “Hole In The Ground & Twenty Grand.” This transcendently pissed-off two-part epic starts with Lachance sneering over damaged guitars before steering into a no wave no man’s land, as Hernandez unleashes some of the year’s most cathartic vocal chord shredding.

On the eve of their record release show, Plasmalab sat down to discuss art vs. music, Toronto frustrations as fuel, and the political power of memes. Continue reading

Pandemix’s Poetic Punk Politics

Pandemix

Photo by Ryan Stanis.

Pandemix is a punk band from Boston, Massachusetts. Granted, punk is a broad term—it encapsulates a myriad of subgenres: hardcore, peace punk, Oi!, crust, and so on—but Pandemix manage to seamlessly pick and choose from decades of cultural and artistic detritus to create something unique and engaging, though clearly rooted in the familiar. They employ the poetic politics and bounce of many Crass Records bands, the catchiness of ’77 style punk, and the aggression of hardcore.

Their first full-length, Scale Models of Atrocities, released by Boss Tuneage Records, expands on the work Pandemix did on their 2016 demo. The band manage to ramp up both the aggression and catchiness by delivering memorable riffs that still have teeth. Old songs like the tense, building “Total Immersion” or the dark, stomping “Faultless” are given a fresh polish and new context when sequenced with more ambitious numbers like “A Wall” and total rippers like “The Pornography of Hope.” It’s the best kind of musical progression—a band that takes a step forward creatively while still sounding distinctly like themselves.

The lyrics, thoughtful and poignant, are delivered with precision and palpable frustration by vocalist Shannon Thompson, who’s been around the New England scene for years in bands like the alt-country-influenced Long Gone and who runs Nervous Nelly Records with her partner. We spoke with Thompson about avoiding punk conventions, the pitfalls and necessities of identity, and navigating this complex world full of interlaced power dynamics.

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Sheer Mag Place Their Faith in Love and Dissent

Sheer Mag

Photo by Marie Lin.

It’s been just over 48 years since the Stonewall riots, an event identified as a turning point in the gay rights movement in America. There were subsequent raids and protests during the late ’70s and early ’80s in Canada as well, with Operation Soap and gay rights activists who resisted against their provincial government. As a result, Quebec enacted legislation that protected from discrimination over sexual orientation. Not all movements net tangible results, and neither are those results a fix-all, but what they do demonstrate is that resistance and dissent can bring about change.

Organized, impassioned rebellion against oppression is an act of optimism—a belief that, in time, things can get better. That same spirit of hopeful resistance courses throughout Sheer Mag’s gritty rock ‘n’ roll.

From the first notes of the glam-rock strut “Meet Me In The Street,” which opens their new record Need To Feel Your Love (which, fittingly, contains a song inspired by the Stonewall riots), the Philadelphia band invites unity, dissent, and disorder. “When we walk together, it feels all right! Meet me in the street!” frontwoman Tina Halladay thunders, adding, “Come on down and get in the mix.”

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Six Gloomy Gems From the Dark Punk Revival

Arctic Flowers

Arctic Flowers.

In 2013, during an interview with Danny Gallegos, singer of gloomy Chicago punk group Cemetery, I asked him how he’d categorize his band. I wondered if he thought the term “dark punk” was appropriate. It was a term that was coming into currency at the time, as a way to describe a new community of former hardcore bands who were playing music closer in style to deathrock and post-punk. “I hate the term ‘dark punk,'” Gallegos responded, “because to me that’s redundant. Punk should already be dark. There’s always been a message behind punk that is very bleak and dark in nature.”

But the “dark punk” designation stuck, and not just for Cemetery. It’s jockeyed with other genre tags—goth-punk, deathrock revival, the tongue-in-cheek “G-beat“—to identify a style of darkwave-, post-punk- and anarcho-influenced punk that’s grown out of the hardcore scene since the late aughts, and which gained intensity around 2010-2012. It still continues today. The revival’s early years saw important releases by acts like Lost Tribe, Belgrado, Spectres, Arctic Flowers, Bellicose Minds, and Bluecross.

During the latter part of the last decade, many groups operating in the underground DIY hardcore punk scene found themselves moving away from political D-beat and thrash, and started to explore slower tempos, different effects pedals (the Almighty Flanger, for instance), and moodier or more introspective themes. “You can only play a D-beat so many times,” Brian Gustavson of Spectres said in an interview with Austin deathrock site No Doves Fly Here in 2012. “For me, it was rediscovering ’80s U.K. peace punk that made it seem all right to be into post-punk, new wave, and ‘harder punk’ simultaneously.”

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Terminal Consumption: The Best Punk on Bandcamp, June 2017

Terminal Consumption

In this installment of Terminal Consumption, our monthly reviews column focused on the margins of punk and hardcore, Sam Lefebvre reviews Xylitol’s militant meanness, Liquids’ fluid catalogue, Glue’s dour return, and debut tapes by New York groups Decisions and HVAC.

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