ROTW: Bat Fangs!

Real quick, Record Of The Week this week is a fun one we've been looking forward to ever since hearing a couple songs off of a 7" teaser last year. The self-titled debut long player on Don Giovanni Records from this big riffing, power poppin' all girl duo, Bat Fangs, is an undeniable good time if you like to rock.

These two wicked ladies – one from the fab Ex Hex and the other from Flesh Wounds – kick out the catchy, tuff (with two ff's, yes) tuneage, very '70s and '80s hard rock inspired, we can't help but think of the Runaways, and we just can't get enuff (with two ff's, too).

Yes, we've been bitten, we're smitten, so it shall be written. Check out the video for "Rock The Reaper," above, and listen to the track "Wolfbite" on Bandcamp, below...


ROTW: Howling Sycamore!

Our Record Of The Week today (well, it comes out this Friday) is the self-titled debut from something called Howling Sycamore, on Prosthetic, and it's a situation where at first the both of us were like, woah, gotta check this out just 'cause the band's lineup is so... unexpected... and then, on top of that, it turned out to be really an amazing album.

Which maybe should be expected, 'cause it's an international project featuring Davide Tiso, the main guy from eccentric, jazzy Italian avant-black metallers Ephel Duath, teamed up with folks including saxophone player Bruce Lamont from Yakuza, German drummer Hannes Grossmann who used to be in Necrophagist and Obscura, and, most crucially to our ears, none other than JASON MCMASTER, best known to the masses (or at least MTV viewers back in the day) as the vocalist for Dangerous Toys... but his association with Texan tech-thrash pioneers Watchtower is probably what lead him to this gig. He's also in true metallers Ignitor, and appears to make his living fronting a host of classic rock/metal tribute acts.

Weird combo, eh? There's even a guest appearance from Kevin Hufnagel (Gorguts, Dysrhythmia). We won't call it a 'supergroup' exactly 'cause these folks aren't exactly household names, except in our households, maybe yours... Anyway, definitely got our attention and then, wow, they deliver – it's like a blackened Van Der Graaf Generator in parts, almost, with blast beats, truly non-sucky saxophone, and Jason McMaster's tour-de-force vocals, which range all over the place, versatile and melodic and let's say, thespian, definitely in command. He really makes this; his performance is maybe an argument that all 'extreme metal' would be better with real singing, especially if it's as intense and over the top as his. And also that all avant-rock could be so much more metal with the likes of McMaster on board.

Yeah, McMaster of course kills it with the studded-leather-armband shrieking, and that's an awesome component of this right there, but we were also impressed with all the unusual parts where he doesn't sound as metal, too. They could have made a pretty good ol' prog album minus the extreme metal elements, actually – tracks like "Chant Of Stillness," relying pretty much on just some interestingly melodic vocals and acoustic guitar, prove it.

Recommended weirdness! Especially if you like VDGG, John Zorn, black metal, Watchtower, and being surprised.


ROTW: Book Of Sound!

Gonna reach back to a late November release for today's Record Of The Week... The latest from the Brooklyn-based, south side of Chicago-bred Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, on Honest Jon's, really, really, really lives up to the group's name, and brightened our day upon hearing it.

The Spiritual Jazz component of the band's ancestry sure shines through on these compositions that groove with gravitas and joy, sans drums but with horns galore, also with uplifting, droning vocals, synth, acoustic guitar, and more in the mix.

"Solstice," below, is one of our faves. Please give it and the rest of the album a listen – when you do, allow each track some time to sink in and work its magic – and you'll see that the band's name is indeed the best, most basic blurb anyone could come up with to recommend this particular release, anyway. (It's available from Forced Exposure, and they have sound samples on their site.)

By the way, when we mention 'ancestry,' that's 'cause that the group is composed of brothers, seven of 'em, all sons of the late jazz great Phil Cohran, who played with Sun Ra and co-founded the AACM, a interesting bit of info that somehow the both of us only just found out about, even though this isn't the first HBE album we've been into. Guess we should check out the documentary film.


ROTW: Monster Manual!

So, just imagine you're a hard working, wandering monster, lurking in one of the levels of some dark dungeon someplace. It's damp, it's drafty, it's a life both dangerous & dull. Wouldn't it be nice if someone cared? Cared enough to write a song just for you, all about you? A catchy ditty you could hum to yourself as you wait for the next party of "heroes" to show up and try to murder you for something they call "XP," whatever that is? Well, good news, now someone has written a song about you, that is, if you're one of the 26 classic D&D monsters paid musical tribute to on our Record Of The Week this week, which was released on limited edition vinyl not long ago by Frequency Rare and Peterwalkee Records.

Friend rock? Yes, O.K., so it is, we mean, singer/guitarist "Simon" from Simon LeBron does happen to be a friend of ours. But San Francisco's Simon LeBron is also a band who have made a record based on the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual!! Therefore, the awesome D&D theme of this way outweighs any niggling notions of nepotism.

Seriously, these 26 tracks, alphabetically A-Z, each one a concise and creative blast about a specific monster from the pages of the Monster Manual (hence song titles like "Carrion Crawler," "Dragon, Black," "Pegasus, Pegasi," and "Rakshasa"), make for a really rad platter of oddball indie rock. The band cites Rudimentary Peni, Frank Black and the Plastic Ono Band as influences, along with the writings of Gary Gygax, et. al., by the way. So this goes to show ya that "D&D" music doesn't have to be metal, or dungeon synth, or RenFaire fare...

We'll admit that when we first heard about this project, we may have had some misgivings, and not because of the "friend rock" thing. No, we were worried it was going to be a little too cutesy, or, what's the word...? Dorky. But no, the Simon LeBron trio, along with recording engineer Phil Manley (whoops, another friend, there) have crafted a really strong collection of songs. It's stuff that, even if you're not immediately, nostalgically ensorcelled by the subject matter, any fan of, say, GBV-esqe, eccentric indie garage pop goodness will enjoy.

Copies of the vinyl will soon be available from Midheaven Mailorder. Digital via Bandcamp, below.


ROTW: Diggin In The Carts!

Well, this is awesome!

The subtitle "A Collection Of Pioneering Japanese Video Game Music" alone put this in contention for Record Of The Week, almost before we'd even heard it.

Three or so years ago, the Red Bull Music Academy (never gonna drink the stuff, but gotta hand it to 'em for their brand's often obscure music related activities) produced a six-episode online documentary series about the history and lasting legacy of '80s Japanese video game soundtracks & their composers. Now, a companion compilation has been released by the UK's Hyperdub label, carefully co-curated by Hyperdub's Kode9 and documentarian Nick Dwyer.

This assortment of 34 mesmeric, loopy miniatures offers quite a variety of sounds and styles, amazingly so considering the strict limitations imposed upon the composers by the 8- and 16-bit technology of the day, which if anything spurred 'em to greater creativity.

Of course this has some retro-nostalgic appeal, but these themes still sound fresh and stand on their own, compelling repeat listens from folks (us) who have never played or even heard of most of the games being scored. The catchy melodies can be chippy-chirpy or pseudo-symphonic; some tracks are energetically uptempo (or downright hectic), others more moody & atmospheric. Tadahiro Natta's piece from Xak II is even kinda heavy, like some sort of proto- "chipdoom" perhaps.

A delightful sonic trove of incidental, overlooked electronic music to dig into for sure!