Well, this is the end for The Corn People, 2018, and Skull Valley. We'll ride out the end of the year with December's release by the humanoid vegetables. After hearing many of the other monthly Corn People albums, I can say that 2018 was surely, the Year of the Corn.

The cover art to Year of the Corn is minimal. It's kind of like the Black Flag logo but thankfully isn't an irritating parody. It's a nice design, but I don't like that the cob on the right goes off the side.

The Corn People are off; the first track is "We're Going Home", a tune that warps away with whirring sounds and a nimbly bass pushing the engines. This track really shows the dramatic tension in the launch. I actually like that it fades out; this isn't the whole story. "I" is a short, fast piece of stuff; stuff happens, and this is one of the pieces of that ball of stuff that we call the universe. Next is "60 55 101 57", an eerie soundscape of lingering peril that only stays for a chill, and then we head back to the stuff with "II", a drifty dream of drowsing damsels with bright hair in various colors amidst a neon-colored skyline in the day that is the future of our world.

"Radio C.O.RN." is really cool, another semi-ambient piece in crystalline space. A simple progression provides the main unit with power. There's a big, dissonant change up at the end. "In the Field" follows; it seems fairly bumpy unlike that flat field that Bauhaus sang about. This song is all jumping drums and hollow airborne synths, kites in the musickal wind. "III" is an awkward chirping bird with propulsive feathers singing a short song. It works by the end of the track, but the startup is mediocre. Now it's time to "Escape This Rock", at least for The Corn People. This eighth track is whimsical, the old sound of the Corn Carnival as in the history of this corny crew.

In "Find the Answer" The Corn People have gone way out to the place where vector-based beings live. This place is at least four light years away. There is not much sound here that one would hear on the planet Earth. This track is a great mirage of noise akin to something that might be heard on the soundtrack to Forbidden Planet, something that The Corn People have been getting better and better at on The (Candy) Corn People and Revenge of the Stalkers. "IV" is another short and fast piece of rock blast, asteroid rhythm. It comes and goes, and "Lost and Found" is on the other side. This is a harsh piece. Rattling and siren sounds greet the listener into a realm without light. Here, beings traverse by sound alone, distorted by gravitational forces that hiss and sputter. These noise pieces are really well done.

"An Ode to Homo Sapien" sounds like a lounge song; that's appropriate for New Year's Eve. I really like the sultry horn, coming in like a big "what?!" and becoming a big "oh! that's perfect!". The track rides out into the worlds that Corn People call home, places that have their own kinds of light and sound, gravity and inertia, places that are not those vector-based voids of the unknown or the fields we know. "So Long, and Thanks For All the Corn", they say, and I agree. Thank you Corn People, brave explorers from the other side. The fanfare plays.

And that's the end. Year of the Corn is a summation of what has come before and a fitting farewell to the strange, starchy songsters. I liked everything about this album; from the danceable rockers to the sci-fi terrors, Year of the Corn makes its mark in history and receives a Good.

And, so long for now, 2018! Also, dear readers, I was joking about this being the end of Skull Valley; see you in the future!

I'm back again with another look into the world of The Corn People, Pittsburgh's synth jammers who have done an album each month of 2018. Last time, I reviewed the treasure trove of drive-in horror that is The (Candy) Corn People, an album that showed big steps towards a greater identity for these vegetable humanoids. That walk into the edge of the dark continues on Novembers Revenge of the Stalkers.

Revenge of the Stalkers has done away with the previous template for Corn People cover art and replaced it with something that looks like a B-movie poster and some very limited coloration. I don't love this. Though the standard texture and cheap designs could be tiresome, sometimes they worked great when used appropriately. It was almost a welcome nod of camp and cheese. Here we have the camp and cheese in a far too limited design.

"Pesticide" starts the album as a short piece with an Art of Noise-esque robotic clapping effect and a deep, cheap organ. Then it's on to the title track, another spirited foray into some strange aeons. Unlike many of the other Corn People tracks, "Revenge of the Stalkers" uses a minimal and repetitive drum sound that augments the rest of the wild synth trips more than just keeping the beat. After a psychedelic period, there is "Growth", another short piece akin to the interludes on The (Candy) Corn People, this one like a rocket into space, a rising tone that reaches peak magnitude as the stalk bursts clear into the air perhaps for a giant slayer to climb. "Invasive Species" ends the first side with vocoder, buzzing synth waves, and hollow metallic percussion. Order has left the land.

Side two, so to speak, starts with the pulsing and aggressive "Where Are the Corn People?" that develops into somewhat of an ambient, industrial dance song. The bass sounds like a horid creature gulping some strange fluid. "A Farmer's Worst Nightmare" returns to the zanier Corn People sound with carnival melodies jumping up and down as synths float around like many small bees. "Field Reclamation" starts another industrial attack. This one features solid drone blocks like the sound of small motors with a boxy beat. Instead of going into solos, the song breaks apart into minimal backing combined with noisy notes. I really like the rhythm here. "Chop Off the Ol Stock" closes out Revenge of the Stalkers with a light melody enhanced with an air of danger. And that, as they say, is that.

Revenge of the Stalkers was an interesting progression from the dark interludes on The (Candy) Corn People into aggressive noise combined with the previous light tones of the older albums on a few tracks. It's interesting to see the two separate and combined here, and I really like the more brisk structure of these songs. The album is only around 16 minutes in total, but it is just enough to get it almost entirely right. Next time, I'll move on to the final album by The Corn People for 2018. Revenge of the Stalkers receives a Good.

I'm closing out the year with a few Corn People reviews, continuing the journey we started earlier in 2018 into the Sea of Stars above and then into the depths of the ocean below. They've been doing an album each month, and I owe it to these corny weirdos to review the last few albums before the year is up. This is their October album, The (Candy) Corn People.

The album cover makes great use of the standard corn texture, providing both unity and repetition to the overarching discography. I do like the use of texture and color here, though the outlines of the candies coalesce in a way that makes this a little disorganized. Overall, it works.

The first track on The (Candy) Corn People, “Overture”, is awesome camp – percussive, hip-hop strings and static while the voices of the haunted descend upon man. Some rumbling footsteps lead into the next track, the motorik “Check Your Closet”. It’s a bit like Yellow Magic Orchestra meeting Kraftwerk somewhere beyond the Autobahn. The sound is light and floaty. Next is “De Dance Vampire”, something like an interpretation of musick in an old rubber hose cartoon. The song hits with heavy drums and bass, starting with a crashing speed that slows down to a swaggering swing. “Got Ya” is like a hip-hop skit, the same dark production as the first track, though the composition is all sound effects of wind and rain. One could also call it an interlude.

“Corn People Scare Me” comes in with an off-kilter warble, tones that shimmer and shine off the light of the last sound. The instrumental light changes throughout. It’s a cool jam that returns to the old style Corn People jamming but makes use of a central chord progression more than some of the old stuff. The eccentricity level is still pretty high. “A Full Moon” rises into another napa-kraut jam that goes full popped weirdness. I like the production on “The Maze” as it descends deeper into the depths of the Earth. The watery synth sounds provide a melody interrupted by staccato percussive stabs. I enjoy the small chimes in the mist behind the curtain. At the end I think the cops come, and then everyone goes to “Purgatory”, a stark realm of screams and noise. Finally, the moral is revealed to be that “Monsters Aren’t Scary, They’re Just Alone”. This is a more whimsical romp through a haunted house with static effects against the rolling hills of bulbous synths and electric piano. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein at last, and all is done in this story for now.

The (Candy) Corn People is another great one from the mysterious Corn People. The horror interludes blend well with the fright-infused jams to make a more brisk album of solid hits this time around. The Corn People have definitely grown up since we first saw them, and I'm sure these stalks will keep going up and up. Here's to the next one (coming up in the future world of tomorrow [and I mean December 28th, 2018, not a date in the actual future world of the Blade Runners, 2019]). The (Candy) Corn People receives a Good.

One week ago on December 14th, I was really excited to play another show with Sorry, I'm Dead. We had done such a good job with a new setlist at the last show with Leopard Print Taser, and I'll tell you about that later. We had been doing some Facebook livestreams on our personal pages and posting them on the band page (which I would appreciate if you followed ha-ha). We're setting up for more awesome stuff in 2019. In this article, we'll finish up this year with some poor pictures I took with my cellphone.

Loose Cattle played first. They were a full-blown country band in a very large, bombastic sense one might associate with Johnny Cash. It's not a standard sight for Pittsburgh or Howlers, where the show was set, but people certainly came out for this. Led by Tony Award winner Michael Cerveris, Loose Cattle brought a fun and festive experience to everyone involved. Some of the songs were originals, some were covers; the most unusual had to be Dolly Parton's "Jolene" with pieces of the chorus from CeeLo Green's "Fuck You". Was it a Christmas miracle?

After the big country bash and with about a third of the audience taking off, Swampwalk set up and played a short but focused set of her awesome glitchy pop tunes. Though I had heard all of these songs previously, the overall theme seemed a little darker than usual, with the gloom coming over me like a small wave.

Suavity's Mouthpiece was third. The frontman is a big nerd wearing a shirt saying that he would rather be at a library. The band also include Nick Bigatel from Smokey Bellows on super fuzzed out guitar. This was peak Our Band Could Be Your Life potentials formed far after the fact. It's a shame really. Suavity's Mouthpiece is good, perhaps a bit too composed and mathematical, but the compositions fit the odd nerviness of the charismatic and smooth-voiced frontman. Despite the shirt, he also told us about how the library rejected their album. The library seems to have made the wrong move.

We were last, only playing to the real hardcore fans or some such. Sorry, I'm Dead started with "Vampire" by Destroy All Monsters with me taking a walk around the building to then return and do the vocals. We went straight through the rest with only a few moments of repose. People were really into the songs we did including new ones like "Zontar" and classics like "Shopping at Night". I've had a lot of fun since we have gotten the transitions to be so quick and smooth.

After all was said and done, there was your standard post-show hanging out for a bit, and then Kaiti and I had to head home. We were invited to go to Jellyfish at P Town, but people have to get up for work or didn't sleep before work; we didn't go. Anyway, Sorry, I'm Dead will be back in 2019, and I hope to see you there in the future.

John Seleznev, who I am entirely unfamiliar with, released Vistas just a few days ago on December 11th, 2018. The album seems especially appropriate for winter, or it would be if it any snow had actually fallen by now. Technically winter will not begin until December 21st, so there is still time. The album is here now, and we can pretend.

The cover art to Vistas is no masterpiece. It does the job, but it looks very middle-of-the-road. I like the details of the trees, and I appreciate the monochromatic design. The bench in the corner, presumably included to create a solitary and calm feel, hurts the overall color scheme though and draws the eye away from the landscape. The text is very small and includes an awkward drop shadow, especially with the bleak, white sky behind it. Small changes would have taken this cover to higher places.

Vistas begins with “Wavy Ground”. The track is composed of echoing, choral guitars, a scan over a landscape. This could be the musick in a nature documentary. Various layers come thru including piano and a simple beat. The icy chill descends on us as we enter the middle of the song. The drums are kind of cheesy, but I kind of like them, making the track seem somewhat more playful and fun to an otherwise meditative work. “Kosciuszko” begins with small chimes and turns into something that nears trip-hop with a cool beat, shimmering synth pads composed of falling snow, and a small line of conifer trees on xylophone (or similar percussion). “Kiandra”, the third track on the album, opens with a watery bass before adding a soft choir from another aqueous star. Gentle guitaring drifts through the sound.

“Fen” changes it up, going darker and starting with a simple, compressed beat like somebody playing a cardboard box. It almost gets repetitive with the choir sound used previously, but the chimes in this track, which also may have been used previously, make the whole of the piece work decently overall. This is still the least interesting track to me, and the break towards the end really hurts it overall. The final track is “Onsen”, the word for a Japanese bath. It has a drippy sound and thudding drums. Starting almost creepy, the track makes a cyberpunk turn with a keyboard line and bass throb; the shot pans out over the fence and we see that it’s a replica of rural Japan in a vast neon metropolis. The choral tones that mix with the lost voices of static give me chills in their horror of neo-consumerist dystopia. This is a great track, though I wish, again, that it did not take a break towards the end.

Despite its shortcomings, Vistas is not a bad release at all. While "Fen" may falter and the pieces may reference the same structures throughout, the kindred atmospheres are not homogenous and work as a whole to create a larger world. The standout track, "Onsen" pushes the EP beyond where it may have gone with the remainder alone, bringing a statement and vision to my mind that says something totally new and vivid. On the edge of the world, Vistas receives a Good.

On October 26th, I played a Halloween cover show at Babyland. These Halloween cover shows are a yearly tradition in many cities and something that seems to be even bigger in Pittsburgh from what I have heard from out-of-towners. Every year, I think about doing one of these but only remember about them at the last minute. There seems to be a sort of secret society of Halloween cover show promoters, so I've had trouble getting on one: not knowing who to talk to, when to ask, or just getting denied because apparently nobody wants to see a cover band for Kiss.

This year I responded to a post from my friend Alexis for an L7 cover band. I was only marginally familiar with the band, but I thought it would be fun and challenging to go out of my comfort zone into the harsh realm of grunge.

I honestly didn't think anything would come about signing up as these things tend to go, so I was shocked when Alexis contacted me about practicing. I was worried for a moment, but I really wanted to do it and practiced a few nights at home with some tabs I printed out. I figured I needed to catch up, but I found out that I was actually the most prepared at our first practice.

Over the next few weeks, we had some difficulties with different members moving at radically different paces. We ended up working on four songs: "Shitlist", "Packin' a Rod", "Freak Magnet", and "Pretend That We're Dead". By the date of the show, I think the four of us were excited, prepared, and a little antsy.

For better or worse for the four of us, we did not play first. A Placebo cover band was the opener. I had never heard Placebo before. My friend Shoop played keyboards and guitar, and I was excited to see her play finally. The band was pretty good, and I liked most of the songs. Some of them bordered on Goo Goo Dolls soft rock territory, which isn't my thing, but it was all well done.

L7 (that's us) was next. We set up with our gear and went right through the songs. I'm not sure the levels were perfect for all of our stuff. We had a few minor hiccups, though it's the kind of thing that you notice as a performer without any knowledge from the audience. Since we only had four, everybody wanted to hear more once we finished "Packin' a Rod". There was a minor idea of playing "Sonic Reducer", but we didn't do it (ha ha).

As we started clearing our gear from the floor space for bands, a ton of gear started coming our way. This was for a cover band of Samhain, Glenn Danzig's post-Misfits metal/punk mashup that evolved into Danzig. I always wanted to hear this band when I was younger, but I never did. It was a little harder when I was in high school since there was barely anything on YouTube and Spotify did not even exist. It's odd to think back to then since it doesn't even seem that long ago or that different until I think about it more.

Anyway, Samhain did sound like a combination of Misfits and Danzig (more of the latter than the former). It was hard to hear, though, as they were super loud and it was such a small room. The audience had also surged to much larger numbers for this set, so it became hard to see or move. We still had to get a bit of gear outside through the crowd. The anxiety from this situation did not make me want to stay at the show.

I didn't leave though. Dethklok was last, and it was worth staying for. I've only seen Metalocalypse a few times, so, like every other band on the bill, I wasn't familiar with any of the songs. I thought it might be fun to see how they would do the set since there was a lot of theatricality to be had here. They did a great job with the voices and look. It looked great with the red lights flaring about too. I enjoyed the Dethklok set way more than I expected to.

In the end, it was an awesome show, and it was almost all new stuff to me with my limited knowledge of the bands being covered. That obviously misses the point a bit, but I enjoyed it. It was fun to play with a new group of people too and learn stuff that I wouldn't normally play. I would totally do it again. We'll see what ends up happening for me for Halloween 2019.

Today, I did some more research into The Corn People mystery, hearing of their exploits under the seas after space-faring and world domination. This album, The Great Scooba Chase, was released in September and details these adventures underwater.

I don’t have much to say about the cover of The Great Scooba Chase. It’s got The Corn People under the water in some kind of submersible. The text is wavy, and everything is dark. There are abstract bubbles flitting about and some sine waves. It’s fine, but I wish it just was a little less dark or more colorful a bit. Yellow looks weird underwater. That’s life though, sometimes.

“Dive! Dive! Dive!” is a great, kooky watery intro. It has a sound like many prog bands such as Zuntata and Eloy distilled into under 40 seconds. “20,000 Legumes Under the Sea” has the chimey synths ringing in as a more horrid sound filters through the background and some weird animals squeal and shout. “The Great Scooba Chase” is like Pink Floyd’s “On the Run” but more minimal, sonar blips amongst the waves. “Attacken of the Kracken” is a seriously goofy name, but it starts as a silly song. A rollicking bassline is accompanied by sawtooth ascents and descents. I like the break with the big explosion, and everything goes haywire afterwards. Wires whiplash as the song ends, continuing the great sound effects library of The Great Scooba Chase.

“Hadopelagic”, the types of organisms that dwell in the deepest parts of the oceans, is a great description for this melodic wonder of sound. There aren’t any b-movie sound effects here; this is a mystical and wondrous piece of musick. It could be in a film or video game or something else that is awesome. The many layers of sound contribute to the depths of this voyage. “The Unknown Danger” is a short piece that builds up but doesn’t go anywhere. It sounds cool for what it is, though it is relatively sedate. “Rise Up” has the deepest bass sound I’ve heard on a Corn People release. It’s nice to hear a thicker sound, and the drums sound full too. This track is pretty good, but the lead twirls around into an eddy and gets lost downstream for a moment or two. “Tamam Shud” is named for a mysterious murder case surrounding an unknown man found on a coast in South Australia on December 1st, 1948. This track has the static of unvoiced radio chatter amidst it’s pulsing beats and rush of sonic adventure. “Sub Jam Sesh” is the last song here and one of the best. The depths ripple as bubbles twinkle in the last glimmers of light. Some of the sounds recall Pere Ubu's fractured musette and the ruinous doom of Allen Ravenstine's sampler. Now, back to the surface.

It's spotty and uneven, not unlike other Corn People albums, but The Great Scooba Chase truly plumbed new depths for undiscovered species of musick. I really enjoyed the later half of the record and liked the variety of song lengths here. Nothing went past five minutes, having to come up for air sometime sooner than later. The hollow synth sounds could be tiresome when used too much, but this album did so many other things with the sounds of waves, crashing electric impulses, and the deep rumbles of sulphur that it works. The Great Scooba Chase receives a Good.

I've been with the Corn People on a few of their adventures now: back with the Three Sisters, when they were blue, and last time when they took over the world. Now they are Veggies in Space, and that sounds good. Look at the little corn rocket. Isn't that cute?

The cover art to Veggies in Space is so silly. It's a very happy, carefree image akin to the images used by Beat Happening. I love the little jet coming out of the corn, so fun and simple, and it makes the corn look like a carrot. Rabbits are from the moon, you know, so it all makes sense. This might be the best cover for a Corn People album yet, and it does a good job at representing the musick under the surface.

“Crash Landing” is a great song. The drums are powerful, and the synths are wild and mechanical. It sounds like somebody is in trouble. “Abducted and Experimented” is calmer, funkier; seemingly the subject is under hypnosis or pharmaceuticals to create such a state. There are some kind of bubbling tubes. Also, it’s a smidge too long. “Zero-G Swing” is creepy and similarly silly. The warbling tones seem deranged. “I Have Craters in My Head” is a cool, spacey jam. I like the sharp change in the latter half into a different bombardment. “Betelgeuse” closes out the first side with an ambient and whirring jazz-fusion/funk.

Side 2 starts with the distant star voices of the “International Bass Station” that quickly warp into a fast jam. I really enjoyed the middle section with minimal drum hits and the static noise. “A Trip to Trappist-1” is another upbeat space jam that riffs off one segment. Also there are laser sounds. I wonder how far Trappist-1 is from the “International Bass Station”? “Dark Matter” starts with a hand drum and then becomes a pretty far out fanfare. “Floating with Greys” has elements of a soundtrack and has some cool dance stoppage. There are still tons of goofy horns. I feel like this one has some really, really good elements but should be more focused for how concise it is. Finally, there is a “Jam Aboard the Mothership”, which is certainly very jammy. It’s a good summation of this journey, both the highs and the lows.

Veggies in Space does not live up to the heights of Corn People Take Over the World, but it isn't the worst album either. The jams run wild; they cross borders and dimensions, planetary boundaries. They might go too long and far out, though the distances are not great; they are just unprepared for such journeys as meager space travelers (it seems anyway). I am glad that The Corn People took the trip out there, but Veggies in Space only gets a Neutral.

I've been listening to a lot of city pop recently. Essentially a Japanese form of disco and synth-pop that inspired vaporwave, city pop owes a lot to Yellow Magic Orchestra as a whole and its individual members. While browsing Bandcamp, I came across the fantastic synth duo, Satellite Young. That's a fabulous name, and they have a very cool sound to boot.

A month ago, November 2nd, 2018, Satellite Young released the single "Moment in Slow Motion" to Bandcamp. The cover artwork by Kana Tarao is both beautiful and alien. It appears as a still life, objects floating on the cool water. A splotchy pyramid hangs near a giant lens and a small palm. These are all symbols of vaporwave, that whole scene beyond just that type of reused mall musick. It works decently here, the sculptural appearance going beyond the usual. I don't love the composition, unfortunately.

Now, the composition of the actual song is another matter. It has a beautiful pop structure reminiscent of those 80s tunes that I have been listening to, mostly the tracks from Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam and weird, trash anime OVAs. I can't understand most of the lyrics, and that's fine. The vocals are strong, with background peeps appearing when they are needed and a small hint of reverb enhancing the minty flavor already produced by those crisp keyboards and rich bass. I get lost in these kind of tracks, displacing time, wind, light, Sun, Moon, and stars; it's a neon world of night full of cars and poofy hair. "Moment in Slow Motion" is just that, and when it cuts off after a short instrumental and synth solo, I want more. I'll be sure to watch for more from Satellite Young. "Moment in Slow Motion" receives a Good.

I don't know anything about the label aufnahme + wiedergabe or the artist Imperial Black Unit. I found this release while browsing Bandcamp and really liked the name, though I don't know what it means. It sounded tough and frightening, harsh and gritty. The label's name means "recording + playback", and they, along with the duo who created this release, are based in Berlin, Germany.

The cover art looks like the small label on the center of a record. It could also be a picture disc. Going along with the aesthetics of industrial and EBM (Electronic Body Music), this shows a figure in a biochemical suit holding a Molotov cocktail in greyscale. A regal building appears behind him in another layer. It's okay, very true to form, and that might be the best way to describe this release overall.

State of Pressure starts off with the title track. It's hard-hitting beats and warped vocal grunts and cries make me want to dance hard. I like the drum fills, cutting through the mix, and the buried arpeggios; the distant voices, lost in the void, add a frightening paranoia to the track. "The White Rose" starts with some frenzied cries that make me uneasy. The pulsing music builds into a similar rhythm to "State of Pressure" before the song adds a symphonic chorus hidden behind a veil and a running chiming lead.

"Philosophy of a Knife" starts off the B-side. I didn't like this one at much. It hits a little too hard for me to really enjoy it. I'm not a fan of those harsh yells, and the synths are not much to talk about either. There was some really cool textural creepings happening at some points though. "Now You Can Pray" starts out with some really hard four on the floor, and, though it changes, it doesn't let up. The synths sweep throughout, curtains in a hot room of scaly men.

State of Pressure is a decent release from Imperial Black Unit. As someone who doesn't listen to a ton of EBM, techno, and industrial, this doesn't do a lot for me. I liked the A side but not the B side. Mostly I don't like the harsh vocals. The first half had some very interesting compositions, different instruments producing greater wholes from their parts. State of Pressure gets a Neutral.

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