18 July

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U.S. Maple — Sang Phat Editor (1997, Skin Graft)

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In the trailer for an unfinished documentary that follows Chicago group U.S. Maple, guitarist Todd Rittman and vocalist Al Johnson profess that the group are awoved classic rock fans and their sinewy, often nonsensical approach to rock music is firmly situated within the pantheon of Led Zeppelins, Queens, Stones, Whos, and the like. Irrespective of ‘Maple’s influences or point of origin, their destination is one which is infinitely more interesting (not to mention challenging) than playing “I am the Walrus” backwards or whatever other proto-psych drivel classic rock fans are on about. The songs have tight drumming and slack guitaring. Sometimes guitarists A & B play (deliberately) fumble their cues, play out of time, focusing more on timbre and muted plucks, leaving the power chords and bombast at the door. More often than not, they combine in an effort that sonically resembles Derek Bailey jamming with the Contortions. The ending of “Songs that Have No Making Out” takes Jimmy Page to the cleaners. “La Click” is circus of a tune: grating violin, spasmodic drumming, and an outro comprised of Casio stabs which sound closer to sitar drones than pop keyboards. “Missouri Twist” is one of the best tracks on the record. Piano-meets-revving engine whammy bar strums which give way to Melt Banana-esque squeaks and chirps. Replete with rhythms that sound like a warped record and are sure to elicit pelvic gyrations. Forget No Wave, this is Blues Wave. In the epochal upheaval caused by the hyper-reductive, yet exceedingly popular genre “grunge,” U.S. Maple stands alone as one of the 1990s truly imaginative rock bands.

14 July

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Tunic — Disappointment (2016, Public Tone)

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While the band purports themselves to be fans of the Chicago School of noise rock, they sound remarkably fresh. Making use of the early-Albini’s midwest-y driving, frenetic pace, but ditching all the macho-loner bullshit. Frenzied eighth notes are to be expected on any punk release and are ever-present here, but so too are slightly unorthodox rhythms which manage to bludgeon the listener and simultaneously break with punk’s proclivity toward the straight eight. Among the most appealing aspects of the release are the band’s sheer emotional intensity and the fidelity of the release. It sounds on first audition to be live-tracked and fairly spartan. One hopes for the sake of authenticity, this isn’t some digital gimmick. Despite its brevity, this release is visceral enough to stand up straight and deliver a knockout blow. Done and dusted in under ten minutes. Pop open the deck and the tape is sizzling. Highly recommended.