That Ser Nosotros Mismos exists is probably more “punk” than anything else right now; the climate of unchecked violence in Mexico goes largely unreported, this record serving as a missive vividly depicting the aggressively oppressive atmosphere. This is intensity that can’t be faked, packaged in 8 tracks that are as unruly as they are catchy; “Desaparición” catches you bobbing your head at the start and leaves you hangin’ by the strings of your combat boots by the end. “Te Desprecio” finds frontman Dave Rata howling wildly, running out of words to express unmanageable situations that most of us view safely from home on TV. Tercer Mundo mine similar dark post-punk territory that the overlooked Deskonocidos were churning out a few years back, but compress that sound into a high-speed assault, brimming with disgust and contempt for modern atrocities and social apathy in equal measure. It makes sense that the band chose to display a limbless beggar on the cover, a depiction of defiance and futility, both troubling and revealing. This is the year’s most vital hardcore LP (if not the best), a record that dares you to look the other way.
All of the US distros that carried this LP have sold out, as far as I know. I believe Velted Regnub may get a few more copies in soon, or you can get in touch with the band via the email contact on their Bandcamp to grab a copy, where you can also scope their upcoming US east coast tour dates.
Dark Matter, “Broken” from Dark Matter (2014)
Those paying attention to Siltbreeze’s nearly flawless act of raising the short-lived ghostly entities of Oceania in recent years undoubtedly picked up last year’s essential Victor Dimisich Band compilation LP. The voice of one Stephen Cogle powered that band’s late night sprawl, a voice that can in the same song draw you behind the curtain and strike you to your knees. I’m happy to report that Mr. Cogle is still in fine form these days, creating music with a new outfit called Dark Matter, whose self-titled LP is out now on Siltbreeze. If you found the Victor Dimisich Band recordings a bit too tinny or unpolished, you’re in for a treat here, as the production on this record is top-notch. Not a hair’s out of place, so even while Cogle is telling you that you’re broken, it’s with honesty that is as brutal as it is proper. The band colors outside of the lines a tiny bit on “Face of Evil,” a song that smolders for 6 minutes with the occasional flash of guitar squall, but this LP is largely an exercise in finesse. I’m reminded of the Tindersticks while listening to Dark Matter, and the label’s comparison to Roxy Music is a fine starting point, too. Really, Dark Matter is just a fantastic record, one with shoulders broad enough to carry the members’ past work forward, distilling it to only the essential elements.
I gotta admit that there’s only been a handful of metal releases this year that’ve left a mark, but you better believe this new Barghest album is one of ‘em. Following up a very good untitled first LP, The Virtuous Purge is in just about every way the first’s superior. Barghest eschew the perfectly fine recent trend of injecting black metal with stately beauty (à la Deafheaven) and opt for strains of death and doom metal to bolster their filthy assault. No polishing up to be found here, just an unrelenting barrage of riffs crashing into each other, as on “Agonizing Spiritual Descent.” The nearly total lack of smooth transitions between the differing tempos works to the band’s advantage, this type of music being much more effective raw than distilled. It doesn’t hurt that Barghest have upped their chops since their last outing; the opening guitar on “The Virtuous Purge” (above) oughta sell ya on that immediately, sucking you into the gnarled landscapes of the cover art and spitting you out within 6 minutes. There’s a lot to digest on The Virtuous Purge but the band keeps it trim, pounding the point home hard ‘n fast, leaving you adjusting your head during the slow comedown of “My Own Grave.” This LP’s a hell of a ride, a sure stand-out in the recent resurgence of US black metal.
Lower, “Bastard Tactics” from Seek Warmer Climes (2014)
Don’t sweep this Lower LP under the rug - this is a potent blend of searing guitars piled on each other and Adrian Toubro’s desperate vocals, tension growing with the snap of each steel spindle on the tightrope. “Craver” is the only holdover from Lower’s past as they move to slow-forming epics (“Expanding Horizons”) and convincing near-ballads (“Soft Option”) while still wielding power in measured doses (“Unkempt and Uncaring”). The above “Bastard Tactics” splits the difference between all three, cutting itself off before becoming too overwrought. It may not feel completely natural just yet, but that’s what’s so attractive about Seek Warmer Climes: nothing feels rote or disingenuous here, and that in itself is an accomplishment in 2014.
Grab yours direct from Matador or from basically any local record shop.
Schoolboy Q - Blind Threats (ft Raekwon)
ScHoolboy Q executes a graceful transition to the majors on Oxymoron, a brooding, dark record full of Q’s trademark vibrant delivery. He’s definitely a better rapper than on (the also great) Habits & Contradictions - just listen to him hold his own with Raekwon on “Blind Threats” (above). Lyrically, Q is of Raekwon’s generation - as noted by urbankill already - but the beats and production here smack of the present, all crisp slow-churn beats that move just inches above the murky reality they soundtrack, with just the right amount of extra flourish (i.e., the ominous horns and disembodied voices in the background of “Hoover Street”) to differentiate one from the next. Tracks like “Hoover Street” and “Break the Bank” feel like classics already, both full of long-winded verses that actually tell stories rather than holding a chain up and flexing. (I’m sure there had to be some compromise in which he included the kinda out of place “Hell of a Night” but even the verses on that intended party anthem sound ominous.) The normally gleeful 2 Chainz is even brought down by these grim landscapes on “What They Want,” but Q finally cracks a small smile on stand-out “Man of the Year.” Interscope wanted a hit, he gave it to ‘em with “Man of the Year,” tucked away in the back, a smart move that makes the rest of the album feel like a proper arc. Bonus track “Grooveline, Pt. 2” is the only one off-target here, but that’s why it’s a bonus track. The rest is ripe for repeated listens, so save room for the cold-hearted Oxymoron on your crowded queue.
I bought my copy that I’m in the midst of playing to death from Underground Hip Hop; maybe you oughta do the same.
Heavy Times, “Might Not” from Fix It Alone (2013)
Woke up with the half-line “I might not shoot myself ‘cause…” rolling around in my head this morning, less thinking about the toxic self-pity that such a statement might incur than the endlessly catchy guitar line that accompanies it. Fix It Alone never really caught on with me, kind of overlong at 18 tracks compared to its sleek predecessor Jacker, but waking up with this one in my head might just inspire me to go back. Heavy Times is a band that seems to revel in not keeping it together, a pretty great live band when they play before the libations set in. “Might Not” just may sort-of cure your summertime blues, or at least keep your head nodding in the affirmative.
A track from the upcoming Peter Escott (1/2 of the Native Cats) solo album on Bedroom Suck, titled The Long O.