I've both been trying to post more often and been super booked-up with cool music to write about, so it's taken until now for the first roundup of 2021. Here we go, in alphabetical order...
I'm trying to remember how Ayanyss came onto my radar, 'cause I'm surprised that word hasn't started to spread about 'em a bit more. I think they may have followed me on Instagram, and then I learned more about the group from a recent episode of The Smokin' Word podcast. Anyway, the key factor here is that Ayanyss quietly maintains a bit of an all-star lineup. Vocalist Chiqui Rodriguez was of course a member of the now-legendary Dmize, Frank Smarra and Harry Minas were in the early version of 25 ta Life, and I believe Harry and Nick B. were in Cold Front, so... yeah, that's one hell of a pedigree! They've only released one song so far, "Masques," and the probable Cold Front connection makes perfect sense, because classic hardcore underpinnings herein mature into that Cold Front or maybe Maximum Penalty type of vibe—where there's a cool groove and sort of a post-hardcore dissonance goin' on, but without breaking away from the roots. So, you're kinda like, "Yeah, this is hardcore," but it's also just... more than that. There's a nice aesthetic to the production, too. If you told me this was recorded in, like, 1997 and they just now threw it onto Bandcamp, I'd believe it (and I mean that as a compliment). It doesn't have that overly crisp or "digital" modern sound that's so common these days, so it all just fits.
$1 on Bandcamp will get you the goods for now, but hopefully there's more to come soon. I mean, again, look at that fuckin' lineup! Someone's gotta hook these cats up with at least a 7" or something, right!?
Far Away From All of This
Swiss duo Far Away From All of This explores a jangly emo/indie rock type of sound that stretches out beyond into what I guess you could call weird alternative jam band territory or something. If the songs were short and to-the-point, it'd just be, "Oh, cool, this is a nice emo/indie band." But the reality is that the tracks extend toward six, eight, or maybe even 12 minutes—largely in the form of drawn out instrumental passages that start to bring in post-rock textures and even spacey keyboards and stuff (the final two songs are basically ethereal ambient synth pieces). It's sort of interesting considering that they're a duo, so I'm curious as to how these types of compositions would evolve in that context without a literal, full-band jam session scenario. I'm not a big fan of "post-rock" or "space rock" niches overall, but Far Away From All of This does utilize those elements very tastefully. I have to admit, however, that there's some part of me that's kinda like, "Damn, I sorta wish these were just three- to four-minute emo/indie songs." Each of the first three tracks starts out fuckin' great, and I'm totally into it and on board, but the more they extend into the instrumental experimentation, I do start to lose some interest. But, I get it. The aspect of their approach that I'm less sold on is also what makes them so unique and interesting, so it's a tough balance. I'm intrigued, though. Definitely promising.
The artists oft-known as Teeth Engraved With the Names of the Dead have spun-off yet another really interesting side project, Inverted Tower, and this time... I don't know, it's almost like post-rock meets trip-hop? I'm not so fond of either genre, but this piece is executed with such tact that I'm instantly drawn in. There's a little bit of a rugged dirtiness to the recording, but it's still lush and atmospheric at the same time. Just a great vibe across the board. It's not boring, and it doesn't fall back on the annoying staples of either genre—it just touches on a few key influences while doing its own thing. Like some of the duo's other asides, this is sort of "zone out" music (in a good way). If this track was 27 minutes long, I think I'd probably enjoy it just as much.
I'd love to hear more of this, and once again I find myself wishing to hell that a label would stumble onto their Bandcamp page and realize how cool it would be for some of this stuff to be physically available on a nice-looking cassette or vinyl release. Maybe one day...
Ryan Allen's been releasing so much music over the past two years that it's been hard to keep up. I've only heard bits and pieces of his output since a nice benefit single last summer, but since that time there have been additional singles, digital albums, limited edition vinyl LPs... let's just say: a borderline ridiculous amount of material! I just happened to get an email about Digital Hiss the other day that caught me at a time when I had about 10 minutes to give it a quick test run, and by the time I got to "Stuck Inside"— which opens like it could've been a demo for something off of Dinosaur Jr.'s Where You Been—I was totally sold. It's one of those "Yes, yes, yes!" type of songs that always grabs my attention and makes me start to flip out a little bit. A number of Ryan's past outings have achieved this reaction, but this may well be my favorite. I really dig the rugged recording, too, because it's warm without being muddy, the mix is balanced with some great panning action (always a cool twist), etc.
I'm guessing this one's gonna be digital-only, so head to Bandcamp for the purchase or Spotify for the stream. Solo or otherwise, I'm sure Ryan will be dropping more new jams any day now, so... keep your eyes peeled!
I make no secret about the fact that I'm not really interested in traditional hardcore these days. If I feel like listening to that stuff, I'll grab one of the classics and that's generally all I need. I must admit, though, that German outfit Spark executes that style in fine form. This promo from the band's forthcoming LP offers two short, to-the-point old school hardcore tunes given that '90s oomph with some hardass breaks, gang vocals... all the staples. There's just something about the energy and execution that hits harder than most. Of course, quality songwriting also plays a role, as does the great bass presence. I must also compliment that the vocals have their own character—they're not the usual generic NYHC ripoff junk of today, instead higher-pitched and more organic/honest than average, which makes such a huge fuckin' difference. Both songs are great, but the slightly more melodic run at the end of "Supernova" takes the proverbial cake for me.
Look for an LP this summer through Sunday Drive Records (U.S.) and Control Records (Europe). Sunday Drive still has cassettes of these songs if you're interested. Otherwise, hit Bandcamp or Spotify and wait for the full-length!
Like crust punk, black metal is a genre I enjoy that just hasn't interested me as much as time has gone by, so I tend not to write about it very often these days. This two-song EP from Taklamakan, however, demanded some attention. I was alerted to the existence of this project because apparently they're from Finland and have ties to some excellent hardcore bands of yore—Down My Throat, St.Hood, Death From Above—which piqued my interest right away. Thankfully, the songwriting, too, is powerfully awesome. Moderately fast but not boringly excessive, bitterly ferocious vocals that are a little more in the midrange than most of what the genre has to offer, forceful drumming, etc. The compositions are built upon plenty of blasting and tremolo picking, but not without some variety and that crawling, dissonant aesthetic that I typically demand—so the outcome possesses actual feeling and impact. At times it brings to mind Dawn's Slaughtersun (Crown of the Triarchy), which is my favorite black metal album of all time, so...
The EP is digital-only for now, and that is a true fucking shame. I'll take what I can get, of course, but holy shit am I looking forward to hearing more! For the time being, find I on Spotify, YouTube, or Apple Music.