HEY! Get updates to this and the CD and 7" blogs via Twitter: @VinylUnderbite

30 August 2013

Exclaim - 'Critical Exploder' (Sound Pollution)

Extreme Japanese hardcore, though there's little in the sound to indicate it's far-East origin. This outlier in my vinyl accumulation exists as a gift from a friend, and a much appreciated one. Though they're probably forgotten already, this 2001 release stands as an document of some amazingly fast, uncompromising hardcore - this is similar to a style known as 'power violence' but I'm not sure if Exclaim strictly qualify (nor do I really care). What I do know is that this is super fast, super aggro, and recorded just poorly enough to be exhilarating, but not too badly as to lose it's impact. Song titles in English, lyrics apparently in Japanese, and a few stick out of the lyrics sheet like 'YES' 'YES' 'KEEP ON PUSHIN'. There's parts where the (single) guitar and the voice becoming indistinguishable as a mess of static. There's always been a lot of back and forth on the boundary between 'noise' and 'hardcore' - some of these are balanced better than others (Combatwoundedveteran, anyone?) and others fall too clearly into one camp. There's not a lot of 'noise' here in terms of electronics or improvised mess - the guitar playing is pretty straight - but it's a total buzzsaw and somehow this transcends everything into truly remarkable territory. I'm not expert on hardcore but my tastes have always gravitated towards the unusual, extreme examples which can be appealing to fans of all/any extreme musics; hence, the continued existence of Critical Exploder amongst all the wimpy folk and indie-pop records. 45 rpm of course, so it's louder, and faster, and while it's pretty short to be a proper 'LP', it's a fully satisfying assault.

23 August 2013

The Ex - '6.6' (Ex)

A 'return to form' in some ways, after Joggers & Smoggers and only using my small sampling of physical Ex releases, this 12" is the last of a series of singles released around 1990; maybe because of a mastering problem or whatnot, this is actually a 12" of two songs, but the package includes a 7" sleeve for this two songs. Don't try to stuff it in though, it won't fit. 'Euroconfusion' makes me chuckle a bit; it's accompanied by a text against the Schengen treaty, which I personally think was a pretty good treaty. It's a great song, though it's the closest G.W. Sok's ever come to straight-up rap music. There's a drum machine (really!) and jagged Gang of Four guitars, but it's more hip-hop than Big Black. The flip, 'Bird in the Hand', has a funky rhythm part too, but the guitars jump in, punctuating each vocal shout, simultaneously melting and exploding. It crashes to an end, ending up a completely satisfying outburst. These six singles (of which this is the final) were collected at some point into an album which would likely work as one of the more complete and satisfying Ex records, and a nice balance to the improv weirdness (yes, I love both sides!).

The Ex - 'Joggers & Smoggers' (Ex)

This has always been my favourite Ex album, where they full embraced their avant-garde tendencies and made a huge, sprawling record that's meant as a statement - a statement of purpose, but also a roadmap to future explorations. Some may disagree, as this can also be seen as an inconsistent scattering of sketches and unfinished ideas. Either way, if this isn't a turning point, I don't know what is - it's a 34-track double LP packed with guests from Dutch jazz as well as Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo and other such titans. But it also has a textual influence not yet seen, with various other writers contributing ideas (including Kafka, Brecht and Emma Goldman). The opening track announces that this is something different - it's a rumbling, staticky sketch, like something from a soundtrack, resisting the urge to explode in punk fury. And throughout Joggers & Smoggers we find a different, more open Ex. Whether they're accentuating their lineup with instruments yet-unheard of on Ex records, or just letting the songs breathe more, this is a conscious change. The results are stunning - as long as it is, it never gets tiresome and the lyrics seem to reflect this new openness as well. 'People Who Venture', deep on side three, is a nuanced dissection of individuality and systems, and they're printed in the gatefold so they can be enjoyed separately. I hear a lot of Beefheart, whose always been somewhat of a spiritual influence through the herky-jerky root sound, but also in the sprawl. The second side brings in some funky horns, growling voices, and the occasional classic Ex 'song'. The rocking bits move towards the sound of discordant bands like the Fire Engines or Dog Faced Hermans more than Crass; a Scottish influence perhaps? The next full-lengths after this, which I sadly don't own in physical form, are the two collaborations with Tom Cora, seen by many as the high point of the Ex's (and Cora's) career. It's easy to listen to Joggers & Smoggers and declare this as the warmup to a more improvisatory form, but really, the Cora records are tighter and more song-based than even this.