Last week, someone sent an EP for review to the Skull Valley page. The sender described their band, Shin Guard, as a Pittsburgh-based post-hardcore band. "Well I owe it to this person to review it," I thought to myself, "but unfortunately I don't think I am going to like it." It didn't turn out so bad.


The cover of Shin Guard's Five Songs is okay. It's not great, but it's not bad either. I like the desaturated look, like porcelain or a colorized pfoto from a century ago. The pale color denotes a fragility to the image. Originally, I thought that the closeup of a nosebleed was way too similar to the infamous cover to Andrew W.K.'s I Get Wet. After looking at that cover again, there are actually very little similarities other than the nosebleed. Since that is the main focus, it's still kind of weird, but I think that a nosebleed makes sense considering the songs. When I think of someone having a nosebleed, I think of anxiousness, fights, embarrassment, or drug use; all of these things are relevant to the teenage problems expressed on this album. In that light, the cover is actually a good choice.


The first track of the Five Songs is "Bemis Point", seemingly a misspelling of the village Bemus Point, NY on the shores of Lake Chautauqua. The lyrics describe a failed relationship involving self-harm and maybe suicide. I don't think much of the lyrics here, but the musick is good! It has a more 90s sound than I expected, the guitar jangling like a less jammy Dinosaur Jr or a more rocking Julianna Hatfield Three. The vocals almost hit that unbearable pop-punk sing-song region but stray far enough away that it's just more of a standard pop style. I don't like "Corsages", at least the beginning. The screaming vocals sound somewhat comical, cheesy, and overdramatic. It has the same kind of lyrics as the previous song. Again though, the musick is really nice. I really like the fuzzy guitar and the snappy drums. The clean backing vocals add a nice touch as well.

On the third track, "You Turned Everything to Paper", I realized two things. First, there are only four songs here. Second, all the songs really are about breakups; it plainly says that. Anyway, "You Turned Everything to Paper", which I really wish was called "Everything Turns to Paper", reminds me of an anime I watched called Sola. Like this, it was also a little overdramatic, though the main things I remember are a character that seemed to be a vampire getting some juice from a vending machine and a really weird twist in the plot, similar to the title of this song, that made me uninterested in finishing it at the time. This track is way different than the others, a spoken word piece with ambient sounds behind. It flows really nicely, and there are some awesome sounds here too. The final track "Flubline" has more awful screaming vocals. I really like the drum sound, but the guitar sounds more generic. It's still not bad. I really can't stand the screaming vocals, though. Even beyond my standard dislike of screamy-ness, the delivery is weird. The weird glitchy feedback at the end is so awesome.

Where's the fifth song? Maybe it's a statement on loneliness, incompleteness. Maybe it's some kind of post-modern, internet-age reference to Fugazi's habit of naming albums after the number of songs. I found it interesting that it wasn't there.

Five Songs was better than I expected. As I said above, I generally don't like post-hardcore (along with emo, pop-punk, trap rap, death (and other kinds of) metal, D-beat/crust, hardcore, or modern pop country). There are always exceptions, though. While I still didn't love the vocals or the lyrics, and really didn't like the screaming vocals, I do think that Shin Guard did a good job. Though I don't really listen to this kind of musick, the tracks on Five Songs were different enough to be interesting. I really liked that there was a poem on here, and I thought the production sounded great. If you are a fan of these genres, I think you would really like this EP. Five Songs gets a Good.

This weekend, I've been all screwed up on anime and Street Fighter. I also practiced driving, Japanese, and the mixolydian scale on guitar. These are good things. Still I was all screwed up, bleary-eyed at dawn with visions of school girls firing energy blasts at muscular men in white karate gis. Do monsters stalk street corners at night? Did Elvis die? These are questions that need answers. You won't find the answers here.

While salarymen costumed themselves in ties and black trousers, I did sit up wondering what the hell I was doing these days. After putting my own weird wardrobe of punk/closet-queer boy/rockabilly/nerd junk away, I found something that took me back to older bleary-eyed days of night-time mysteries. Many years ago, a friend and I would sit up all night discussing the paranormal and the supernatural, and one day he handed me a really weird little booklet. I don't know if it was serious or not, but the text described a robotic killer or something that was thought to come from a university, I think CMU. I never really read the whole thing. Well it turns out that I live a few blocks from a robot lab owned by CMU. There have certainly been nights where I walked past the walls and wondered what dastardly replicants were being assembed inside that would one day be dismantled by a post-noir detective in our increasingly cyberpunk world. Just the other day, I posted a picture of some ugly, boxy, condos that look like they'd exist in that same time and place. These things are coming up all over. Truly the future has arrived.

Of course the future was already here in some form as Robotic Music of Pittsburgh proves. This record was released back in October of 2009 on the mysterious Specific Recordings, but Bandcamp threw it out to me as a "new arrival". It must be fate! I think it's really just only been now posted on Bandcamp.


Robotic Music of Pittsburgh is an album of musick "played on physical instruments by robotic or mechatronic performers". The cover is a throwback to the harsh Pittsburgh of yesteryear when steel was the king and everybody died with lungs full of soot. You could ask my great-grandfather about it if you were dead. Thank God that that orange guy is bringing all the soot back, so we can all ask my great-grandfather about the steel mills and stuff once we are dead. Thank God for environmental waste and a backstep for human health! Thank God (or Christ) for the bomb. I like the cover to this album.


The album starts with a track by Richard Pell and Matthew Mesner called "Robotic Player Piano". "Monday, January 4th 1999", a voice says, and then it's all controlled chaos of flying ivory keys. There's a swirly mid-range with twinkling somethings above. The first track is not even a minute long.

The second track is attributed to Ben Brown, Garth Zeglin, and Roger Dannenburg and titled "McBlare Robotic Bagpipes". It's another short track, sounding like something John Cale might have produced on viola. The machines drone and blare. They don't rock.

The longest track is "GuitarBot" by the League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots. It's quite beautiful. I love the sliding guitars, all hollow and slimy, accompanied by a bullish upright bass. As the song continues, it sounds as if there is a keyboard or an EBow or just some really extreme sustain. The musick ranges from meditative to jolting.

After a brief silence, Jeremy Boyle w/ Robotic Guitar and Drums produce a track of the same name. This is the final piece of musick on the album, and it is the most like a typical song. The machines really can rock. The guitar rolls over in waves as the drums sound, well, like clockwork. Some other guitars come in with a counterpoint and semi-solo. There might be a keyboard here, or it is another guitar all covered in amber light. I enjoyed this one very much.

I'm glad that I found this sampler of Robotic Music of Pittsburgh. There is an air of mystery to it. I could not find much information other than a short article written by Manny Theiner for the City Paper concerning the output of the label. Specific Recordings is certainly something I will watch out for from now on. The robots here on Robotic Music of Pittsburgh do a good job at making musick. Were any of them built close by? Label owner Richard Pell does have connections to CMU, so there is certainly a chance. Thus the mystery of the man-eating robots of CMU was finally solved. They are really just musicians taking all the gigs away from human bands. That's just the way of the future, isn't it? Robotic Music of Pittsburgh receives a Good.

Welcome to the second article in the Outside In(fluence) series of international musick reviews. Last time, I talked about some Chinese punks called Dirty Fingers. This time, it's noise-rockers, Buzz Rodeo, from Stuttgart, Germany. I have been aware of them for some time because I am friends with the frontperson, Ralph, on Facebook. Despite this, I have never really listened to the band before. Since I started the Outside In(fluence) series, I thought this would be a good time to do so.


The album cover to Combine, released in May 2017, has a mechanical feel. It is literally a picture of a piece of machinery with small lightning bolts, but the image is also very clean. I'm not a fan of this type of art; it leaves me feeling empty. It seems like a popular style, but it seems so sterile to me. I do think it suits the band a bit with their mechanical attack.


The first song on Combine is "Cheap Trick", sounding like Albini in more ways than one. The guitars are scratchy sirens and the vocals excitedly wild. There are some nice drum parts here. I know Steve Albini likes the band Cheap Trick quite a bit. I don't think this song is about the band. Next is the speeding-along racer of "Jordan Walk". I really like this song with its imagery of bicycles racing around. Everything goes to chaos before the chorus returns. Then the song ends with the guitar sounding like an electrified cable of many pounds. "Nice Guy" sounds like Sonic Youth meets Big Black and My Dad Is Dead. "The Song in A" has more raw power cable guitar. The bass has a weird, ghoulish sound. The drums sound good but kind of thin. The bass a subtle creepiness from under the waves of guitar. "Pride Parade" does not refer to a pro-LGBT event but to self-congratulatory, arrogant rockstars. I was glad to hear a short break of near silence on this, as the album has been going on full blast since it started. There is at least one German word here that is repeated often. I think it is "hofnarr" meaning a fool or jester. I had to look up the translation, but it makes sense. "Tripwire!" is heavy and droney, and I like it a lot. I don't know what it is about though.

The second side begins with the Dick Dale guitar of "Brompton Stone". This one reminded me a lot of Multicult with its throbbing mid-range bass and screeching guitar. "Spinning" is a little quieter. I get tired of all the yelling and stuff, though this is still along those lines. The guitar does some cool stuff, alternating between a start/stop Ramones rock and a Sonic Youth galactic attack. "Next Position" sounds like it has something to do with sex or fascism, but I think I'm missing something. I thought this song was somewhat tiring. "Rubdown" is more guitar attack. I wish the drums were more prominent. "Butchers Knife" starts with an interesting effect that's been on a few songs, a kind of tremolo or something, some kind of stutter on the guitar at the end of the notes. The musick is the poppiest it's been on the entire album, Ralph, the vocalist, nearly crooning in his own way. This one is my favorite on the album. It reminds me of Iggy Pop's The Idiot and Gang of Four. I wish more of the album had been like this.

Buzz Rodeo is a very skilled band. They make some cool sounds. I just wish they had more varied songs. "Butcher's Knife" proves they can do more than just yelling b/w loud guitars. I love that song, so much. I can't say much for the rest. Combine gets a Neutral. It doesn't do enough for me, mostly a slight headache.

On January 11th, I played the first Treasure show of 2018. Treasure is a monthly ambient series at Howlers put on by Manny Theiner (Futurism) and his fellow DJ Elizabeth (Amadea). I was supposed to play one earlier, but this one was probably the best for me anyway.

I left my house with a lot of time to spare. I put all my gear in a box, and, unfortunately, it started to rain soon after I started towards the venue. All of the musick gear was protected with various towels, but the box started to fall apart. Luckily, my friend Anna saw me walking and gave me a ride to Howlers.

Howlers was all dressed up for the show. The tables were covered by black tablecloths and little jewels were strewn about on top. Because this was my first Treasure show, I didn't expect anything like that. It is a nice touch.

I played first after some chilly post-punk and industrial DJing by Amadea and Futurism. I used a stripped down setup of only 3 pedals and the microKorg. It was nice to bring back the Boomerang Phrase Sampler Plus, and the other two, DOD Carcosa Fuzz and Strymon El Capistan dTape Echo (what a mouthful of jargonese), both fairly new, worked well together. A guy in a YouTube guitar video would say something about how I was able to "keep my tone", far off from the muddy sounds of slightly older Satyr/Elfheim material, and then play a really boring blues solo. I played some exciting blues solos during the soundcheck, though the actual set was ambient and textural, little crystals of the night among an unfulfilled sound of mystery. I continued to build the crystal notes with bass counterpoints. The song never reached that unfortunate lazy noise end that has occurred too often in the past. Instead, it ended with a few springy guitarings. The next song incorporated the microKorg with minimalist drums and vampire bells. A foreboding bass sound provided the backdrop. That one ended with a choir and morphed into the "swamp-tone" (nothing to do with Swampwalk) that I use often, and that morphed into a whirl of notes. The final section was very quiet. I got a lot of compliments on my set, and I really liked it too. It was one of the best I have ever played.


Next, there was more DJing for a bit. Then Swampwalk played. Her set was really good! I mean, Swampwalk sets are always good, but the sound was very full this time. The chiptunes sounded bright and clear. She was also very emphatic with her vocal delivery. I love the vast swings of emotions of these songs, true peril and joy.

More DJing commenced, and that was it. I got a ride home from Elizabeth, thankfully avoiding the rain this time. I hope to go to more of the Treasure shows (Treasure #11 happens February 8th featuring slowdanger and Trovants). I also have a better idea of what to do with future Satyr/Elfheim sets, though they may still remain somewhat rare for the time being.

2
Vimanas were ancient flying machines from Hindu mythology. Were they real? Were they not? I don't know. There is a real Pittsburgh project with the same name, however. I've never seen them live, nor are there any pfotos or links to Facebook on their Bandcamp. Who are these beings? Well on January 18th, 2018, they released a self-titled album. This is my excavation of such a thing.


The cover of Vimanas. drew me to this album. It follows a trend in metal and noisy rock of ancient building and mythical imagery, but I still like the stark pyramid and the bold text. I don't like that the text bleeds into the bottom border with a slightly darker color. Anyway, what sludge metal or noise-rock was contained within these chambers?


The musick on Vimanas actually isn't like that at all. The first track "Strange Attractor" starts with a cool dub sound that becomes more jazz. I find the lyrics sort of cheesy at first, but interesting later. "Do I think these songs are going to mean something? Something, someday, to somebody." The little keyboard flourishes are nice. "Beds" has a guitar sound like Dean Cercone or something I might have done a while ago, but it sounds acoustic. I like the theme of the song and the way that the vocals end before the song does. The guitar has a cool sound towards the end. "Doomed Inspiration" has an R&B feel and a song structure that has very juxtaposing parts. The guitar seems to be going direct; it sounds like Tom Verlaine's on "Little Johnny Jewel". I really don't like the vocals on "Moon", and the instruments aren't much to me either. The lyrics are okay, though they are quite flowery. The spacey sounds that fly over the track and the bass drum sound below are nice. "Whereunto" continues the mild musick with more vocals that just seem placed on top. I don't think the words fit so nicely into the holes they are given. "Starspawn" starts quickly after the sudden end of the last one. I don't like this one. The lyrics have a particularly New Age thing going on that I don't really care for and recalls those posts on social media of people talking about being made of "star stuff". "Reflector" has okay lyrics, but, again, I feel like they don't fit the jazzy musick very well. It's a shame because the musick sounds very nice towards the end of the track. "Can Word Affect Change?" is alright. I think the title is far too blunt. Again, I'm also not a fan of the vocals/lyrics. "Powerless To Try" is a jazz-rock instrumental. I like the drum sound and the guitar sound, once the song has built in intensity towards the end of the track.

"Distant Moment Replay" has beautiful musick that reminds me of the anime A Piece of Phantasmagoria. The vocals really bother me again. The lyrical theme of self-reflection is good, but the words are not. "We thought our strings were out of tune. In fact, they sound better than that. We almost went our separate ways. Instead, we admitted faulty character traits and stayed." Sorry, I'm really not a fan of that. "Ancient Obligation" is pretty cool. I like the really out-there vocal effect at the end and the progressively building tones. "Endless" has some decent guitar lines, but I hate the drop after each line of the chorus and the tone of the vocals. I like the part where the flute sound leads the bass, but it's just placed over the top of everything else. This song is very disconnected. "Interregnum" is just a little instrumental piece exactly as it says. It's pretty good.

I'm not going to discuss the vocals much more; just know that I don't care for them. I like the 70s movie score meets funk tone of "Modern Gem". I don't like "Progress". "Sparrows" is okay, comparing bird songs to text messages. I like the weird electronic drums and the background tones. The part of the song that's just all crash cymbals kind of lacks punch, though it kind of works as a droning section. "Immanuel" has really nice musick, more of that Phantasmagoria sound. The guitar has a beautiful reverb with pianos swirling around and synths floating in the sky. The vocals are poppier here, but I still dislike them. "Tomorrow Plans" has a good sound for a final song.

So what are Vimanas? Well, Vimanas certainly have their own style. The complex structures, strange aerial loops, and verbose lyrics of these ancient crafts create something that I can't say I have ever listened to before. However, perhaps Vimanas should remain buried; the lyrics and vocals, especially the sing-song way in which they are sung and the obtuse word choice, really ruin the album for me. Had this album had a different lyricist and vocalist, I think I would enjoy the calm jazz of the musick. There is certainly a structure here for something to be built in the future; it really shouldn't stay buried, but it will need some future tech added. It pains me to say but, having discovered what I did upon this excavation, I can only give Vimanas a Bad.

I was browsing Bandcamp's selection of Pittsburgh artists today and came across a little album that caught my eye - Ellen Dash's The Whale. I didn't know anything about it. The album was just released on January 19th, a chiptune thing with a bright and charming cover.


The cover shows a pink whale moving to devour a small ship, perhaps a galleon or something of the like. The whale is probably pretty big then, but the sort of sub-8-bit art only shows so much. Like I said, I really like the bright colors and simplicity. There's not a bloody head or text that looks like it was woven from the world's oldest vines to form the name of the heaviest riffers in Oakland. The art fits the musick well.




The Whale starts off with "Truth In The Pants". The song has a knocking bass drum sound and springing trumpets amid somber tones and weird echoes. It sounds like something from an early 1st-person shooter. "Sun Orgy" has a similar foreboding tone, this time with a slap bass and driving/droning pulse. The organ break in the middle provides an excellent level of interest. "Jealous Laser" has a snare and dissonant organs that have a really cool progression. Some laser sounds provide additional color. "Relations" continues the more complex drum sound from the previous track with more down-tempo musick. I like the Princely keyboard sound on here. This song is a little longer than the others. I am not super fond of the little breaks of silence between certain sections, but this song is still good.

I really like the beat on "Resonance" and everything sounds nice. This is one of my favorite tracks on here. "Guilty Skull" has a sort of guitar sound, but it isn't really a rock song at all. The drums are really industrial, potentially heavy if they were a physical kit. "All I Have Is My Road" has the clearest drum sounds yet with some kind of effect on them I think. I don't really like this one, though; it's too much of the drums with nothing else, and I don't find them particularly interesting. The bass sound is okay. Unfortunately for me, this is the longest track on the album.

"Laser Sale" brings the album back to more exciting territories with its abundance of instruments, the bass echoing the piano. I like the drums here, though they are a bit high-pitched and thin. "Unto The Whale" starts with a beat that seems to be saying the title before dropping into a lonely bass sound, building on that, and then coming back to the original beat. I like that effect, though the beat is a little tiresome. "Angering The Gods" is the last track on the album. The end has a cool progression and there are some nice sounds here, though it's kind of a summary of the earlier songs.

The Whale was a fun album to chance upon. It's all instrumental chiptunes, and the songs are short. It reminds me of Guided By Voices actually, at least in the structure. I'll have to look for more musick by Ellen Dash, who also calls themselves pup/puppy. The Whale gets a Good.

Welcome to Artist Special! Artist Special is a new series of interviews that runs every third Sunday of each month. I'm talking with artists who make both musick and another kind of art. They could be poets, painters, sculptors, novelists, game designers, or anything else. This month I talked with Brian DiSanto.


Brian DiSanto is mostly an a capella musician, though he has played with bands IT IT, Skeletonized, and Znagez among others. I first met Brian through mutual friends who were all living together, or soon to be living together, at the infamous Roup House a while back. Later, we played musick together in the short-lived Mangy Bipods.When I put up a post about this new Artist Special series, he was the first to respond with samples of poetry. We did a short interview via Messenger; the results are below (only edited for grammar).

When did you start writing poetry? When did you start making musick?
I started writing poetry in late middle school, probably around the age of 14 or 15, in study hall. Even back then I was attracted to the movement & rhythms of poetry and how they could exist beyond the words & transform into melody. I really wrote for my own entertainment. I became equally as interested in writing a song myself that could spin ‘round my head all day as a motivator as I was trying to find interesting songs on the radio. I started to record and actually write full-blown songs shortly after this…maybe age 16. It was always with my good friend Rob Russell and I. He was on strings and I sang, or sometimes had bongos or makeshift percussion. Our favorite recording spot was this crusty old shack in North Park. We would go after dark. And the building was always unlocked and had working electricity and these fantastic acoustics. There was a big crumbled sign hanging inside that said “No confetti permitted in the building”. That was our first album name which I released on CDR about 7 years later. We called our band various names, including The Ramblin Roosters and Maverick Jack & The Grenades.   
In the beginning, what/who inspired you in terms of each? What continues to inspire you?
Back then, and still today, REM and Robert Pollard have been hugely inspirational. Their carefree, seamless songcraft was just so attractive. They were punk, but they were pumping out pop songs. Catchy, gorgeous pop songs. Especially Michael Stipe and how he allowed his vocals to become a sort of hidden instrument. You couldn’t decipher what the hell he was actually saying, but it didn’t matter. He was a vehicle for emotion, and most important to me, a pop hook. And Robert Pollard and his prolific nature. He never really aged in normal human terms. He kind of just keeps writing songs to avoid getting older. Literal rock n roll lifeblood. I liked that. Tom Wolfe continues to inspire me as well. His word usage is so beautiful. It just glides. Like the board game Mousetrap. You wouldn’t dare stop that little silver marble once the contraption has initiated. So you watch with glee and amazement. The actual stories he’s telling are secondary. 
I asked you about this in person, but, to clarify, have all of yr songs begun as poems? Are some written with the intention of being made into a song at a later date?
I would say 50/50 as far as songs that started as poems. Most of my poems are foundationally geared with melody and rhythm in mind, but I carefully leave quite a few alone and don’t develop them beyond words. Though if you were to read the ones that have remained only poetry aloud while in a certain chipper kind of mood, the fully realized songs will slither out into the ether pretty easily, which is my secret intention.
You have a small label called Wild Raft. Where did the name Wild Raft come from? I've always liked the simplicity of the name.
Good question! My family and I used to go camping often and one of our favorite activities was to go tubing along Slippery Rock Creek near McConnell's Mill. One Friday night when I was probably 13 or 14 there was this huge rainstorm which created super high water levels with extremely rugged rapids. The state park rangers made a clear announcement NOT to tube/kayak/canoe due to dangerous conditions. My dad pretty much said, "screw that", and he and I went anyhow. As soon as we launched we both flipped off our tubes, catapulted down the river with hanging onto the tubes' rope, and by the grace of miss mother nature herself, finished the 5-mile trip unscathed. We evaded the rangers at the end. It became a legendary moment in my childhood.
Briefly describe yr creative process. How do you choose the words/lyrics? Some of these are pretty out there.
Quite often a melody will just zap into my head outta nowhere. It seems to happen most often as soon as I leave work. It’s like a natural destressing mechanism. It’s that gorgeous moment when you finally aren’t chained to the crummy labors of the workday. The brain wants to go party and release itself. If the melody is decent, I usually will record a chunk of it into my cell phone so I can revisit it later and add words and verses. I have probably 150-200 chorus snippets on my phone at any given time. I am way more interested in the hook than writing about a theme or moment in my life. Maybe one out of fifty or so songs will have a theme….and if so it’s a very looooose concept. I enjoy writing about movement and escaping and metaphorical moments when something striking happens. My main mission is always to get the song stuck in your head, without it being annoying. If you listen at night and wake up the next morning with the chorus circling your head, it was a job well done/gold star for me. And the words are a giant puzzle. How can I fit “rhododendron” somewhere to close to “power flight” and then fit that near “exonerate”? I’m filling in my own New York Times lyric crossword as I go. I’ve best pick the right word now, or the next one ain’t gonna fit.
I know that you also make collages for yr album art. Does that come from the same place? Is the idea of “found art” a central element to yr work?
When I collage it’s a similar process. The shapes and flow of the imagery should be catchy and memorable. It’s also me simply entertaining myself. I like spooky creatures, and neon contrasted with not neon, and space, and the unknown. I probably was watching an episode of The X Files within 24-48 hours of every collage I’ve ever made, which probably shows. I think the idea of found art and recycled art is super cool, though I don’t keep that in mind when creating something – and I don’t necessarily want the collage to feel old, or new… just grasping and groovy in that moment in time.
What are yr goals for yr musick and poetry? Do you see yrself publishing a book of poetry in the future? I can’t remember if you made a zine in the past, but I do remember you reading a story at a Quiet Sound Night at one point. That was pretty cool. Is that published anywhere?
My creative goals are very relaxed. It’s important that I keep producing, as long as I can. I’m very fortunate to have recently jammed and recorded with the folks in IT IT and Skeletonized. They both were unexpected and amazing collaborations. I hope to continue similar projects, as long as people see my lyrics and vocals as a vehicle to further their sound. My dream scenario would be to have a pure rock formation, stage-ready. A no-holds-barred power pop and psychedelic affair. Something like the Butthole Surfers but with less cerebral damage. I’ve released 3 poetry zines in paper and digital format, which are linked on my website, wildraft.tumblr.com. I also released one CDR copy of actual spoken, not “sung”, poetry. It was called The Above-Ground Octopus. This was in maybe 2011. I nestled it under a hedge down around the busway behind Bloomfield. The story you’re referring to was called Cap’n Fizz & The Mysterious Glowstick Hotdogs. Kind of a nod to discovering LSD, but in a more PG text. I released that as a paper zine as well. It’s intended to be acted out as a play. If I could make that happen one day I’d be ecstatic.
What new stuff are you working on?
I'm writing as many songs as I can. I want to release a new solo album since I haven't in a few months. My fourth poetry zine has all the content but I need to assemble it and it needs a title. I'm thinking Powdered Mink Metropolis. Or maybe Transmissions On Chestnut Ridge, which would be a shoutout to this stretch of land out in Westmoreland County that the locals call Chestnut Ridge. And for hundreds of years, it's been a hotspot for the unexplained.
I hope you found these answers insightful to the enigmatic Brian DiSanto. Even being his friend, I sure learned a lot. You can check out Brian's musick at https://briandisanto.bandcamp.com/ and his poetry at http://wildraft.tumblr.com/.

If you want to be a part of this series, please send a message to the Skull Valley Facebook page or send an email to skullvalleyblog@gmail.com with a short description of what you do and samples of yr work. I hope to see you back here in February for the next Artist Special when I talk with Mick Malone about his new book of poetry.

On January 5th, I went to the First Friday event at Spirit. It was the first one of the year, and some of my friends were playing at the event. Even though it was fiendishly frigid, I was able to just walk the few blocks to the venue.

I got to the event and nobody was really there. I looked at some of the art by Donald Ducote. He has a textural, abstract style that uses a lot of red. It's kind of ugly in a cool way, but I can't say that I was that interested in it. I always think the art placement at Spirit is a little strange; it's not particularly well set up for that sort of thing, but I appreciate that they make an effort to do it. I do think if the lighting had been better on the art, I might have looked at it more closely. Anyway, I didn't see anyone I knew, and nothing seemed to be happening at the moment, so I left.

I went back to Spirit a little bit later. Now there was something going on. Many more people were there, and some equipment was set up. I saw my friends in BBGuns at a table and sat with them as another friend, Valerie Kuehne, began to play.


Valerie played a very furious and exciting set. At first, the crowd seemed unsure of what to make of it. I think it went really well. Her cover of "I Can't Stand Losing You" by The Police was interesting, though that might have been the weakest part. It was a bold move though.


The Petals were next. I had never heard of them before, and I can't say I am much of a fan. They played a sort of 2000s indie/baroque rock thing like The Arcade Fire. I liked some of it when it sounded like The Good, The Bad, & The Queen. Also, the guitars and some of the vocals were cool.


BBGuns, the main event for me, were playing third. The audience had thinned quite a bit, possibly from the variable sound and feelings towards the last two acts, or maybe it was just late. It was awesome to hear the new singles live, and the old songs sounded good too. I am excited for the album release party on February 16th. I thought this was the best performance that night, though I did not stay much later.

After BBGuns, I went home. It was cold and I got a ride. There's not much else to say; it was a fun and short show. Thinking back, I do wish I had stayed for the last performer, a rapper named NVSV. I did listen to him on his Facebook page. I can't say I like it too much, but I do always like to see something new, even if I don't like it. I hope to see you at the BBGuns album release party or at other First Fridays at Spirit or on Penn Ave. later in the year.

1
Before all the styrofoam got smashed, lost treasures were found, and various fatalities occurred, I saw my friend, former Rouper Brian DiSanto, at the New Year's Eve punk show at the Shop. Brian told me that he had worked on a new tape on which he did the vocals for Skeletonized, a former solo project of Triangle & Rhino's Matt Rappa that now included others on various instruments beyond drums and synths. That sounded pretty cool! I always enjoy Brian's weird lyrics and psychedelic subjects and Skeletonized's rhymic krautrock electro-rhythms. And so here is the review of The Lost Cosmonauts Were Just Wearing Camouflage.


The cover art features one of Brian's collages. Even with the big shapes, there's always more to see. Stealth fighters and strange glowing humanoids interact with eldritch beings amidst a myriad of lights and video noise. My only real issue is that the text should have a small border of some kind to make it pop or perhaps be a little larger. The wild designs make this a messy cover, and it does a good job of showing what is inside.


The first track on the first side of The Lost Cosmonauts Were Just Wearing Camouflage is a funky little jam called "Treasuring Electrocab". Brian's vocals remind me of stuff from one of my favorite Sonic Youth albums - NYC Ghosts and Flowers. It's a beat vocal trance to a fusion sound. "Quill, of Brilliant Hemisphere" has a big launch into pseudo-raga rock, a slow sway of heroic epic. I really like the little horns. It's a sunny dance track. The last track on side one goes back to the dark sounds with "Beaver Co. Static". This one has been fried by a TNT area under pine trees. The song slowly eases into UFO sonics with the vocals kind of drifting along like David Thomas' "man muttering in a crowd", as described by Greil Marcus. "We're stoned at the top of the road. Yeah, we're counting on". The end goes into a totally different groove, bass and static vox from a radio that is tuned to something else entirely but receiving this.

Side two starts with the faster, post-punk "Herb & Opal". The vocals are mixed a little low on this one. The musick sounds really good; I really like the bell sounds that run concurrent to the bassline. The drums are kind of thin. "Scorched Pog Fiduciary" is a really cool name for a song. I first encountered the word "fiduciary" in a spam email and thought it was not a real word. It is. I like the contrast between the vocals and the rest of the track on this song. The drums play fast and light with various fills. Everything builds in intensity as the song moves along until the first big cymbal hit does it. "Calico Elevator" goes back to that UFO trip down the dark country road with more beat vox to go with that trip. This is the creepiest I have ever heard Brian DiSanto's usually cheery voice. The deflated horns and cavernous humming make this a very texturally unpleasant experience (in a good way). The last track, "Translucent Pygmies", jumps up after the downbeat darkness of the "Calico Elevator". It's quite a weird one. The song gets repetitious before everything breaks down in a Jonathan Richman way. That's the way to end it.

I really enjoyed The Lost Cosmonauts Were Just Wearing Camouflage. It's quite the trip into other places, meeting other beings, and traveling by various vehicles, some of which may be venomous or inflatable. The only thing that was a little off for me was that the vocals sound a little different than the instruments in certain tracks. It works well when they are slower, beat lyrics but not so well on a more rockin' tune. It's nothing major though by any means. At the perfect length of time to travel the sonic waves, if you like sort of lo-fi, "outsider art", Brian DiSanto and Skeletonized have made an album worthy of checking out for sure. The Lost Cosmonauts Were Just Wearing Camouflage receives a Good.

The Royal They are a Brooklyn-based fusion of sludge and pop with an R&B tinge to their shifting songs. On January 13th, they released Foreign Being on King Pizza Records. I decided to take a listen to it.


The album cover of Foreign Being is just okay. I sort of like the amateurish art style, but it's just an image of a horned helmet. The linework is too scraggly too. I like the font used, though I wish the "O" in the band's name was the same "O" as in the title of the album.



Foreign Being starts with the creepy "C.N.T.", the description of some gross masculine entity amid screechy guitars through heavy bass. At first I felt like the lyrics were too obvious, but in the end they are very powerful. I like the song. "Sludgefucker" is full of more furious guitars, almost dancey noise-rock riffage. The vocals are pretty awesome and remind me a little of Jello Biafra. "Flying Naked" is much slower and bare, as the title suggests. It sounds like it's about Hellraiser, though, if anything, that's just a starting point. The many shifts in this song keep it going when it almost gets stale. The next song, "Pandemic", took me a few tries to sonically understand. The vocals kept me coming back, a call from a faerie wood under the woodwork of heavy guitar riffage that sounded cheesy at first. "Veritas" is a pop song that sounds like one Iggy Pop might have done in the early 90s. It's very catchy.

The second side of Foreign Being starts with "Needler", an R&B-influenced rocker. The guitar solo is sick. "Waiting Game" is a great, punky track about getting what you want from life and not giving up. "Say Less" is another poppy punky one, though I wouldn't exactly call it pop-punk with it's noisy solo and heavier parts. It could have been a Nirvana track. "Leech" speeds ahead, unlike the normal leech. The title relates to the lyrics though. I like the lyrics of "Gullethead" about how we all dream but don't always do what we want to. It's something that I have been deciding just recently, sort of a New Years resolution, to finish things instead of worrying about their completion. The song has a very 90s alt-rock sound. It's my favorite song on the album. The last track "Weekender" continues the poppy punk sound of the second-side. It's kind of cheesy. I like the guitar solos, though I don't like the quiet part that comes right after the first one. The rest is pretty good.

I have mixed thoughts on this album overrall. I really liked "Pandemic", "Waiting Game", and, particularly, "Gullethead". The rest were just okay, off by some small amount that was just enough to make it not right for me. The songs have a lot of loops and curves that don't always work, at least on the first listen. I listened to some of the tracks a few times and got a much better understanding of them after the first time. Unfortunately, the production on Foreign Being is not great. It's too clean and too loud; it does not have character. I'm not a fan of the drum sound in particular, and I feel like the guitars get way too loud at times. I get a headache from listening to it. I really want to give The Royal They something more for their efforts, but I don't think I can give Foreign Being any more than a Neutral. The production sets the whole thing into existence, so, along with the few other issues here, that's what does it.

Welcome to the first Outside In(fluence). As mentioned in this week's news update, Outside In(fluence) is a series of international musick reviews published every other Saturday. The first album I'm covering is How'd I Turn So Bad? by Shanghai's Dirty Fingers. The album was released late last year, December 12th, on the label Maybe Mars, an indie label that started back in 2007 and releases exclusively Chinese alt-rock/punk/noise-rock/post-punk/garage stuff. I have been familiar with the label for a while thanks to the brilliant Carsick Cars, but I only recently rediscovered it. How'd I Turn So Bad? is a good way to come back.


The album cover for How'd I Turn So Bad? shows what looks like an astronaut navigating a crystalline landscape while a giant, pink chameleon stares on. I like the colors used, though I wish there was a slight border or something to keep the brightness contained a bit. I really like the blue of the sky, fading into grey as it does. It's a shocking cover, loud and weird, just like the musick therein.

Before I continue, I should mention that I can't seem to embed this album here. It won't show up when I place the code in the HTML unlike every other album. If you want to listen along, you can do so here.

How'd I Turn So Bad? starts with "School". It's a fast and angular guitar rocker with scratchy vocals. The breakdowns are cool, contrasting the extreme chaos of the rest of the track. "Trip to Cairo" comes in with a spec of ambient mysticism before flying downhill at extreme speed. There's a little reference to "Hotel California" with the line "cause I can check out, but I will never leave". "Thanks to me my mom, I'll always be selfish". That's also a great line. It's time to just go and do what we want. The third track, "Fake Rock Star", starts out with the ghost of Dave Alexander's throbbing bass and Funhouse-esque guitars. It quickly goes a little overboard and loses something, but the song catches back up with itself as it goes on. It's not a favorite of mine for sure. "Climb Another Mountain" is more melodic, as best as Dirty Fingers can be. I like the contrasting guitar parts and the weird wind sound. This is a track I really wish that I could understand the lyrics of. "It seems like so much fun, but I, I got scared," Guan Xiaotian announces on "Arkham Club". "Everybody’s having so much fun. I’m alone drinking beer," he continues. The Arkham Club is a real place in Shanghai, and social anxiety is a sure bummer for anyone going to out somewhere like that. The dark surf sounds and noir vocals make this a great one.

"I Like Your Girlfriend Too" starts the second half. It's the poppiest song on the album with slower tempos and cleaner lyrics (if you can understand Chinese unlike me). I really like the emotions in the vocals on this one and the guitar solo in the middle. The bass line and calmer vocals remind me of the Japanese band, the pillows. "Birthday Song" is a fast track that's over quickly. It does what you'd expect. I like the bass sound a lot. "Robot Song" starts with a blues-played-by-The Strokes riff. It changes gears during the chorus to the more usual Dirty Fingers speed. I enjoyed this one. "Wei Wan" is barely over 30 seconds. It's really fast with a small sample of dialogue at the beginning. "Dead Girl" has more Stooges riffs and lyrics about a nihilistic romance. "I like libertines too. Are we good?". "She's sick in the head. She's secondhand." The lyrics are cheesy but great. The penultimate track is "Undercover Cop", a grim, song under the brim of a rainy, grey fedora and a long coat, Bogart's cigarette lighting the way ahead. It reminds me of The Clash on Give 'em Enough Rope. "Pop" is the final track on the album. It starts with some studio banter before going into another dance-punk piece like a cleaner "Robot Song". I like the monologue in the middle accompanied by the enthusiastic backing vocals. I would guess this song comments on pop musick a bit, but I have no idea. It sounds good anyway.

Even without knowing Chinese, I really enjoyed How'd I Turn So Bad?. The breakneck speeds combined with a keen musical sensibility drive the sounds home. The few lyrics in English are especially well-written, concise and classic, that I really wish I could understand the rest. The bass is surprisingly strong when it gets the chance to peak through the slashing guitars. The production is good, though it is a bit loud and thin, the guitars and drums respectively. How'd I Turn So Bad? is a fine album regardless and it receives a Good.

On New Year's Eve I went to a show at the (new) Shop. The original Shop was a place that I liked going to. The name and style, bare concrete and white walls, always made me think of places I had only read about like White Columns. I was excited to see the new version of the Shop and the punk show that was happening there. Mostly I just wanted to see friends though.

I got to the Shop before anything had started. The new location is very close to my house, even closer than the old one. It's located near me in Lawrenceville at a place I passed weeks before and thought, "wouldn't this be a cool, old-school punk venue?" And then it was.

I liked the gritty inside - it was dim and still industrial, a true Pittsburgh kind of place. There were a lot of people there already. I was still able to get to the front of the performance area before the first band, I think, started.


CHOIR is a band that a lot of people like here in Pittsburgh. Somehow, I had never seen them before. Similar to Silence, I routinely intend to attend events that they are playing but always miss out. CHOIR has a noise-rock/no-wave/punk sound like Flipper. The singer thrashed around with wild nihilism, but everything appeared well-rehearsed; they were not sloppy. It was an awesome noisy rock performance with a lot of energy and stage presence. I think we need more stuff like this.

For me, it all went downhill from here. I did say hello to some friends, but I really didn't enjoy the other bands. I saw Substance, who were from Texas and alright, and I think Concealed Blade. I don't really like hardcore, and I especially don't like people spitting, throwing beer cans or moshing and pits. I'm way too small and concerned with taking pictures to get anything out of that except pushed over and feeling gross. On the whole, I don't find the idea of slamming into people very interesting. I don't like it, even when I'm not carrying a camera, and I don't think it is necessarily "radical" like some people make it out to be. Essentially, it reinforces the status quo; large guys get to show their strength and be tough. There's definitely a lot more of a community thing to it than that, but it's really just not for me. I ended up leaving after some large pieces of styrofoam started getting tossed around. Everything was all covered in dirt and beer and whaever else. That was enough for me.

My friend Brian saw me on the way back, and I got a ride from him the few blocks I needed to go. It was pretty cold, so I appreciated it. We saw a really interesting fireball in the sky right above my block as we were turning the corner. We weren't sure what it was, but I think it might have just been a paper lantern. It was New Year's Eve after all. When I got home, I put my camera away and rested for a bit. I ate some food. Then I decided to go back to the Shop to catch the last band and hang out before midnight. Interestingly, the door was closed when I got there. It didn't seem like anybody was there, and I saw some posts online that made me think it really was over. I had to go back anyway to grab my bike, so it's all good. When it turned midnight, I was just riding around in the cold. I felt alright about that.


Welcome to the future of 2018! Well, yeah it's been almost two weeks in this future world, but I have some new stuff happening this year.

Now the most obvious change is the new site design. That's just gone up in the past few days. I'm pretty happy with the new template, though I will continue to update it as I see fit.

I've added a new anti-adblocker script. I know this isn't a thing people love, but it does cost money and time to keep the site up and every little bit of extra cash helps. The ad revenue is pretty small too, which is why I am also launching a new Patreon next week. Patreon is a monthly membership platform to provide creators with sustainable income. I hope that one day Skull Valley can be my full-time job, and this will be the way I can do that. When the Patreon launches, you can choose, if you so desire, to support the site with whatever you see fit each month. Certain amounts confer small rewards. Skull Valley isn't becoming a subscription-based site though, so it isn't a requirement.

Another new addition is also a new Submissions page. Last year, someone asked me where they should send something they wanted to see reviewed. I said that the email address was on here, but I think this is better. It's easy to find and insert all the necessary information. If you have any new musick that you want to see here, fill out that form, and I'll try to get a review up if I feel that I can do a fair review. Show yr friends who have bands too.

Alright, now the schedule for 2018 is to update Skull Valley on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I may publish additional posts, but these are the standard update days. Most posts should go up during the afternoon between 11am and 3pm, but some days may be delayed. Friday posts will tend towards concert reviews, while the other days will mostly be reviews of recorded musick and not always from Pittsburgh-based artists. This schedule will vary depending on the number of concerts/shows I attend. Additional special posts are detailed below.

Every other Saturday is a new piece called Outside In(fluence). These are just album/EP/singles reviews, but they all come from artists located outside the US. I probably can't understand the lyrics, so these will primarily be based on the instrumentals and the vocal sounds. I'm sure this could be funny for people that do speak the languages used. The first Outside In(fluence) goes up this Saturday with Dirty Fingers' How'd I Turn So Bad?.

I also have a new monthly series planned that will look at artists who create musick in addition to other art. The Artist Special interview series will be published on the third Sunday of each month. The first one goes up on the 21st of January.

The goals for this year are to stay consistent, expand my focus beyond just Pittsburgh, increase the number of followers/Facebook likes/readers, and to improve the quality of the website. Remember that I can't do this without my readers. Thank you!

If you are reading this post right now, on the day it was published, January 10th, sorry for the mess. I've been working on the site design for Skull Valley all of yesterday. I'm still fixing some small problems today, so it doesn't look the best right now.

Anyway, I recently heard about a new compilation of outtakes put out by THOUSANDZZ OF BEEZ called my new wall. I have enjoyed Hunter's musick live, so I figured it might be cool to check out the album. I was not disappointed.



The cover art of my new wall shows a rough and ghostly face, duplicated vertically, noses into lips and morphing into nooks of eyes and cheeks. I like it, though I still wish there was something more to it. The dark purple form fits the sound of the album well, especially the intro track.



The first track on "my new wall" is the title track. I thought it was really annoying, sort of creepy with it's frog vox drone crackling, until the latter half of the song when it springs into a Bowie-esque sound akin to something from Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps). "blood is blue :: sky is bound" comes in right off the first one with a small big acoustic sound from a spider's dream.
The third track, "sunshine tomb", has vivid, cold imagery. It seems directed at somebody. I don't kneo who. The end gives me chills. "blocks" is fun, a song about childhood things that turns into an educational synth sound. "hole in a skirt" has more insect lyrics and a beautiful starshine sound of echo waves. The phantom of a radio appears at the end.

The next track, "steely feet", takes a very different turn. I'm not sure how to describe it. It's hypnotic and kind of scary, like a staircase rotating, folding into itself, a hall of mirrors of musicbox dancers in black stockings. "draft letter nightmare" reminds me again of David Bowie or Syd Barrett with more insect mysticism. At first, I thought it might be like a delta blues type of thing, but it wasn't. "((in throw))" has a Devendra Banhart sound with a warbly synth, strings, and drum machine. I like the loud sound at the end. "witch sides" goes back to acoustic dreamworlds with a small rattling bell and backing vocals. Again, it's a little overwhelming for me. "You side with the witch". ""look inside me plz"" is the last track and more conventional except for the quotes around the song title which creates this quotation nightmare I'm having. The actual musick is like an upbeat downer, Harry Belafonte and Robert Johnson.

my new wall gets a Good. It's hard for me to describe all of the feelings that I got from this album. It's a short glimpse into an otherworld, pale blue and dark green and gossamer wings.

Last year, I went to see a band called Fruit & Flowers and missed them. The rest of the show was fine. Luckily, I was able to secure a copy of the band's EP, Drug Tax, on CD before heading out into the chilly night.


The cover art for Drug Tax is a fiery swirl of a flower. It's basic with excellent composition, the petals drawing the viewer into the enclosed text. The trapping, enclosing nature of this vivid flora also beckons for a listen.



Drug Tax starts with the eerie "Out of Touch". Before the chorus, the song feels like the mysterious touch of fabric that you didn't know was there, something like sitting in front of a curtain that moves suddenly. The chorus builds the song up with a perilous gloom of lost love. All the instruments sound great, especially the fuzz bass. "Subway Surfer" is a faster song, a weird fantasy exposing the disconnect of city life. It could be a Godard movie. "Dark Surf" comes in very dark indeed, a spooky riff off the side of the night. Strangely, this song seems sort of positive lyrically, though I'm not really sure what it is about.

The second side of Drug Tax opens with the hard-rockin' "Down Down Down". I like the dramatic plunge at the end of each chorus, and the guitar solo at the end of the song is awesome! Also, check out the Stooges-esque bassline. "Pick Fairy" does another hard-rock thing. This is the weakest song, but it isn't bad. It retreads the last song a bit. The solo does sound really sick, though! The title track, "Drug Tax", is the last one here. The instrumentals sound so snotty and prickly. The backing vocals remind me a lot of Vivian Girls. I love the "hey!" and the stark chorus. There's a really amazing tiny guitar section, and the noisy solos are really cool.

Drug Tax does a good job of transporting the listener into a dark under-land for a short period of time. It's enough that I want to hear more; it doesn't go overboard with excess. The songs are short and punchy, the production top-notch (not pointlessly muddy fake lo-fi) with great sounds all around. Drug Tax receives a Good.

I agreed to play a show on December 22nd, 2017 that I didn't know much about, but my friend Ryn was putting it together and needed another band. A little after agreeing to do this, I started practicing with a very different setup than I normally use - my guitar accompanied by a drum machine and a microKorg synthesizer. It sounded cool at home, so I even recorded some songs for future use, including one for an upcoming zine release. Would it work live?

I walked to the Rock Room with all my gear in a blue milk crate and my guitar on my back. It was a long trip. I left an hour before I was supposed to be at the venue, but it took one-and-a-half hours to walk to Polish Hill. My arms and back hurt so much when I was about to cross the bridge. I stopped for a short break and was able to make it.

I said talked to my friends and then started to set up. I was a little bit nervous. Once I got everything set up, I had to figure out the sounds on the keyboard for a second. Those few seconds actually took a few minutes. After I began to play, I felt like everything was off, the drums being off from the guitars especially. However, I listened to my recording, and it sounds good! I had started off with a disco-y rock anthem and shifted into heavier, minimalist sludge tones. I'll be using the same setup for my set on January 11th at Howlers for Treasure #11 with Swampwalk, Amadea, and Futurism. I hope I will see some of my readers there.


The next band to play was the touring band, Mala Fides. They're just a two-piece of guitar and bass with a drum machine. I felt more confident in the reception of my own set after seeing their success without a human drummer. Mala Fides was amazing! They reminded me of bands like Paralisis Permanente, Nocturnal Projections, or Cult of Youth. The vocals varied between a Siouxsie Sioux shriek and a calmer Billy Idol. The drum machine worked surprisingly well, despite my standard hesitation about such things. I think it turned better than if they had had a human, reptilian, or Venusian drummer. You can listen to their musick here. I don't think any aliens were actually at the show.


The last band was Rocky Dennis Face. The drummer had a Belie My Burial shirt, which made me wonder if he knew some people I went to high school with. Rocky Dennis Face brought the majority of the crowd. The musick was a very loud and fast, Ramones pop-punk. Unfortunately, their set went on too long, and it was way too loud for me with how long it lasted. The vocals were a little rough, and something about the song composition didn't gel with me. That said, I didn't dislike this band, and I would like to see them again. I do love that Ramones-esque sound.

I bought two tapes and a shirt from Mala Fides and played House of the Dead before I left. Thankfully, I was able to get a ride. I don't know what I would have done if I had to walk. Since Howlers isn't too far from my house, I am still thinking about walking my gear there for the show next week. Again, I hope to see you there, and I'm excited for this new future setup.



"Dreamcast" is the first single from the upcoming BBGuns album, Thirst. Previously known as LAZYBLACKMAN, the duo of Lazy JP and Barz Blackman decided to ditch edgelord rhetoric after the surge in hate crimes and right-wing power last year. This single was released on October 27th, 2017. The song, accompanied by the video of two punky boys jiggin' about after "BBGUNS" angularly flashes on the screen in bright pink, caught my attention right away with it's fast hats and fusion keyboards. It recalls the early 90's OVA anime style of many Sega Saturn games, particularly the legendary NiGHTS Into Dreams, as opposed to the Saturn's stark white successor as named here. I love this night sound, like anything could happen as the city opens around you under a shining moon. "Identify you from across the bar. I recognize you from another star," JP croons like the ditched and dirty Neil Young of "Like a Hurricane". There's some awesome rapping from Barz on this track with JP supplying more of the chorus singing. My only criticism is that it's a bit long, clocking in at slightly over 5 minutes and showing everything it has to share in the first half. Also the cover for the single is a little cheap looking, but it has a weird resemblence to the early Satyr/Elfheim EP, Till Death.


The second single, "Willow", was released on December 12th, 2017. The beginning is a little bit goofy to me with a little yelp making a beat. However, the song really develops soon after with oceanic keyboard ripples, an airy JP chorus, and hard-hitting rhymes from Barz. "Willow" is about longing, hopes, and dreams, maybe a love song dedicated to a pretty girl or a battle-hymn to fame and fortune. It definitely retains their signature Britpop-meets-boom bap. The video is cool, but weird, entirely minimalist and reminding me of Pixies' "Velouria" (but not as ugly) or The Replacements' "Bastards of Young" (but not as grainy and detached). All we see is a pulsing water droplet with a fire inside surrounded by a desert, BBGuns' logo. It reminds me of the Spring of Myst from .hack/Infection along with the aesthetic of PS2 RPGs or the Sega Dreamcast again. There is some grainy, "we-don't-get-that-channel" effect at the start and finish. "Willow" is a beautiful song honestly.

Obviously both of these tracks get a Good from me. I am so pumped for the release of Thirst. If it's anything like BBGuns' live show and the two tracks already available, Thirst seems like it could be a revolutionary recording for a new era of sound and vision. The album is set to drop this February. If you want something to take home now, you can get the two singles above on Spotify, Amazon, Apple Music, and other digital services now. I can't wait to hear the whole album; just like these singles made my Best of 2017 list, it's looking like Thirst will be make it into the Best of 2018. I feel that strongly about it only 3 days into the year.

MARI themes

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