Tag Archives: Punk

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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Honolulu’s Honest, Diverse DIY Scene

The Bougies

The Bougies.

It’s a warm Friday night in Honolulu’s Chinatown, and local punk band Smoke Free Armstrong are playing their final show to a packed crowd at the Downbeat Lounge, a venue that, in recent years, has been ground zero for the city’s DIY punk scene. Between songs, guitarist and singer Steve Tanji grabs the mic to offer a sincere tribute. “I just want to thank you guys, from the bottom of my heart, for letting us play for you,” he says. The crowd of kids gathered in front of the stage cheer in response. “We’ve been playing for two years, and I want to thank you all for coming out and supporting the scene.”

There is a certain poignancy to Tanji’s words. By the usual musical standards, two years isn’t a long time for a band to exist—but, in Honolulu, it’s rare to find bands who last more than a few months, let alone years. Being a punk band in Honolulu is a lot more challenging than it would be on the mainland. First of all, there’s the location—“literally in the middle of nowhere,” says longtime promoter Jason Miller, who has been booking shows in Honolulu since the mid ’90s, and currently books under the name 808shows/Hawaii Express. “It’s so much [money] up front just to get somewhere for exposure. People can go on tours, but they’re not able to do it every summer, or during spring break. They can’t just jump in the van.”

Other problems: Hawaii is by nature a transient place. People come and go from the islands constantly, making it difficult to sustain a musical project for a long period of time. The state has an extraordinarily high cost of living, on par with that of the Bay Area or New York City, but with a far smaller population, and musicians need to hold down two or three jobs just to scrape by. Instruments and amps are more expensive because everything is imported—and forget about PA systems. Nobody owns property and basements are non-existent, so practice spaces are difficult to find and pricey to rent.

As far as places to play, there are currently no DIY venues on the island, and even if there were, the owners would still have to contend with the strange-but-true fact that sound travels farther in moist air than in dry air, making noise complaints inevitable, and house shows nearly impossible in Hawaii’s tropical climate. Generator shows in skate parks and on the beaches occasionally happen, but they can be stressful to execute—especially when it suddenly starts to rain, as it often does in Hawaii. To say nothing of the fact that the laid-back nature of Hawaiian culture isn’t exactly the most amenable to punk rock.

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Mutual Support and Passionate Anger: Screamo in the Balkans

Malisa Bahat

Malisa Bahat.

“I started getting into screamo when I was 17, thanks to a bootleg compilation called Death To False Screamo, where I first heard bands like Orchid and Saetia,” recalls Dimitar Raykov, who grew up writing and collecting fanzines in Central Bulgaria. These says, Raykov runs DIY Conspiracy, a web magazine about punk, hardcore, and emo in the Balkans, where he reviews and interviews groups from around the world, with a particular focus on lesser-known acts from southeastern Europe.

Back in the ’80s, Yugoslavia and Greece already had fertile punk and new wave scenes, and the number of punk and hardcore acts in the area has remained high since then. “There were a lot of good bands and venues,” says Mišo Ljuboje, who comes from Split—a city on the Croatian coast—but now lives in Vienna, where he books shows and runs a DIY label called Hardcore for the Losers. “The zine circuit was developed and there were enough connections,” Ljuboje says. “I think we’ve had quite a decent scene overall.”

Ljuboje got into emo and screamo by listening to political French DIY bands from the ’90s and early 2000s—artists like Amanda Woodward, Peu Être, and The Flying Worker—and by participating in the rising emo scene in Slovenia and Croatia. At the turn of the century, bands like the Zagreb-based Nikad were playing the same brand of aggressive screamo as American acts like Orchid and Yaphet Kotto, and were among the first to deliver an uncompromised mix of powerviolence and emocore. While Nikad were never internationally famous, they were certainly noticed by the most attentive and dedicated fans of the genre—like Kent McClard, the owner of the California label Ebullition Records. McClard once described Nikad as “the best band you’ve never heard of” in his zine HeartattaCk, which published from 1994 to 2006 and was, for many, a sort of emotional hardcore Bible.

Other great bands from that ere were The Farewell Reason (’90s emo from Čakovec in Croatia), With Engine Heart (raucous screamo from Celje in Slovenia), and Analena, whose members were spread among the two northern countries of former Yugoslavia, and were probably the best-known band from the region. Active since 1997, Analena were one of the few DIY acts from the Balkans who managed to tour Europe with any level of consistency, playing important hardcore festivals and self-releasing memorable records rich with crisp and energetic post-hardcore anthems.

Right now, screamo might not feel as exciting and new as it felt back then, but there are still a handful of active bands who have released a series of outstanding albums over the last few years. From the “futurist hardcore” of Greece’s Ruined Families to the uncontainable emoviolence (with 8-bit inserts!) of Serbia’s Eaglehaslanded, Balkan screamo is a beautifully diverse niche that has created a network of connections that extend beyond regional borders.

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A Look Back at Mouth Congress, the “Kids In The Hall” Fringe Punk Band

Mouth Congress

Performers are very often creative polymaths—it’s not rare for them to have talent and acumen in several arts relating to their main craft. The classic narrative is the one of people like Johnny Depp, Keanu Reeves, or Juliette Lewis, talent whose success and celebrity helped buoy their musical endeavors. However, comedy troupe The Kids In The Hall alums Paul Bellini and Scott Thompson—and their music group Mouth Congress—was a different beast entirely. Formed almost concurrently with their groundbreaking work as sketch comedy innovators, the band represented the artistically burgeoning duo’s shared discovery of creative expression and new musical formats, primarily punk and industrial acts like Alien Sex Fiend and SPK.

The pair met in university, bonding over being “weird gay guys who had a lot to say,” according to Bellini. It was in this pot smoke-wreathed creative renaissance that they collaborated with key players Tom King, Rob Rowatt, Steve Keeping, and Gord Disley (with contributions from fellow Kids Kevin McDonald and Mark McKinney, with cover art by Randall Finnerty) to create Mouth Congress, an art-damaged, genre-bending, and very ’80s collective.

The band eventually graduated to live shows after initially starting as a studio project. “We performed from ’86 to ’90, almost always to KITH crowds. We were a KITH fringe act. You can’t say Mouth Congress had fans because we didn’t do anything to merit it,” says Bellini. “There was no consequence because there was no audience. No barriers. If Scott wanted to do something ridiculous, I was like, ‘Do it.’ I was actually interested in the results of a fiasco. And I think sometimes people forget that. Because [some people] want so badly to be successful, they forget that being creative is successful.”

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Self-Love and Solidarity with Punk Trio Cayetana

Cayetana

Photo by Emily Dubin.

One of the valuable upsides of our modern times is an expansive toolkit of self-actualization and empowerment that’s readily more available than ever, whether it’s a forum for discussing mental health, tips on starting a self-run record label, or just working independently with your friends. Augusta Koch, Kelly Olsen, and Allegra Anka, the musicians in Philadelphia punk trio Cayetana, pursued all three of those in creating New Kind of Normal, their second full-length record. It’s being released on May 5 via Plum Records, a label the band founded earlier this year. The label’s Twitter bio cleanly outlines the project: “An independent record label. Founded and run by women. Rock and roll without compromise.” Plum’s mission statement is a pointed summary of not just the band, but the brilliant new record Cayetana have created. “We’ve always envisioned Cayetana as a project that has the potential to be a vessel for something bigger than just our own work,” the website explains. That sentiment is driven home on “Mesa,” the record’s triumphant lead single. “Together we make flowers out of weeds!” Koch belts, her voice husky and powerful.

With New Kind of Normal, the group has crafted a vibrant, defiant assertion of independence and community, acute self-love and empathy, rock-bottom and survival, alienation and acceptance. It’s an urgent, complex exploration of mental illness and wellness; it’s a call to help each other and love ourselves, in equal measure.

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