Space Cadaver – “Space Cadaver” (2017)

WTF Space Cadaver? Where have you been all my life???

I picked up this radioactively hot slab of plastic at Skully’z Recordz in New Orleans last week. As soon as we walked in I asked the guy behind the counter if he had any local metal or punk and he started talking about Space Cadaver before sheepishly saying, “oh yeah, but I think we only have it on cassette.”

Me: “That’s OK man because I have a tape player.”

 

Smiles all around.

These guys’ sludge/doom game is killing it, sort of Clutch meets Tad meets No Stayer. The riffs are flat-out filthy – “Storm” is like being pinned to the ground by a two ton heavy thing while some black metal singer rages at you… did I mention the riffs? These f’ing riffs??? Hot damn man.

We’re three songs deep and Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane, who is generally somewhat ambivalent about metal, just asked me for the third time, “have I mentioned recently how good this is?” Two out of two Life in the Vinyl Lane household members agree that Space Cadaver will shake your filling loose and you’ll love every second of their sonic dentistry.

This thing just came out in July and my only regret is that it took me two months to find it, because that’s two months during which Space Cadaver could have been in my life but weren’t. It’s that rad. Go to their Bandcamp page right now and listen to it. It’ll melt your face and strip the paint from your walls.

((Pressures)) – “((Pressures))” (2013)

We’re starting to dig into the vinyl we brought back from New Orleans, and since we’re feeling chill we thought we’d open with some darkwave from the duo ((Pressures)), who not only hail from The Big Easy but also include one of the founders of the label/shop Disko Obscura where we bought the album. It all comes full circle.

While it came out in 2013 ((Pressures)) gives off a very retro vibe, late 1970s/early 80s style synths, über-modulated vocals, and slightly flat beats, reminiscent of Lou Champagne and Mitch Murder. “Bizarre Times” absolutely could have been the song playing at Tech Noir in the original The Terminator. It’s also perfect for chilling out on your sofa with a glass of something hard. You know, unless you want to go that club down on Pico and risk getting shot up by a cyborg from the future.

The vinyl was put out in a limited run of 500 copies, and mine is absolutely pristine – probably the cleanest record I’ve ever pulled from a sleeve. You can listen to it for free and still order while supplies last (only 8 copies left according to Bandcamp, and it’s only $10!) HERE. Look, I can’t make you go there and listen to ((Pressures)). But seriously, go do it right now, because you can’t send a Terminator back in time to do it for you later.

Record Shopping, New Orleans Style

It’s been a busy year at the Life in the Vinyl Lane household and we wanted to take a long weekend for ourselves before heading to Reykjavik for Airwaves a scant five weeks from now. I’m not quite sure how we settled on New Orleans other than it was someplace I’d never been to, and Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane had only been to once eons ago. It has a rep for good music and good food, plus I could check off another state as I get closer and closer to finally having been to every state in the country (I believe Louisiana puts me at 41…), and to top it off we had a free companion fare, so why not? And of course this meant I’d try to squeeze in some record shopping too.

While I’d flagged a couple of spots on our online map, it seemed like everywhere we went we ran into a record store. Over the course of three full days we popped into five of them, and while I only bought stuff in two, all had their own character and were pretty cool. So without further ado…

Disko Obscura
1113 St. Mary Street

Google Maps didn’t show a record store at this address, but we decided to give it a shot nonetheless. And I’m glad we did, because while the retail space at this New Orleans store/label was relatively small it was extremely well curated. Specializing in electronic and synth-forward music, Disko Obscura still had a decent and ranging inventory. Look, you’re not going to find Eagles Greatest Hits Volume 2 or anything like that; but you’ll find plenty of Bauhaus plus a decent selection of their own releases, and I couldn’t resist those picking up Obscura releases by Ortrotasce, Warmline, and Pressures. I’m excited to get these on the turntable in the upcoming weeks so I can share them with you. If you’re into that kind of thing, Disko Obscura is a must-stop while you’re in town.

Skully’z Recordz
907 Bourbon Street

Chances are if you’re doing the tourist thing in New Orleans at some point you’ll hit Bourbon Street. Now, there are sort of two parts of Bourbon Street; there’s the part that embraces all seven of the deadly sins at once and by the look of it had probably invented and eighth and ninth that I hadn’t even considered, and then there’s the stuff just off that stretch that’s most just casual street drinking. Skully’z is in the part that doesn’t make you feel like you need to go back to the hotel and shower with steel wool, though you may still encounter a drunk screaming in the middle of the street before dinnertime. (♠)

Skully’z is small. Really small. But it’s a cool little joint and the dude working there pointed us towards some local punk and metal. He seemed somewhat embarrassed to initially tell us about Space Cadaver when he said “oh, but it’s only on tape”. Fortunately I was able to inform him I had a tape deck and at that point I think I had a friend for life. In addition to the cassette we picked up the debut by Medically Separated, The Guilt Øf…’s Isolation Room, and a local comp called Crescent City Carnage. You won’t need to spend much time at Skully’z, but you may very well leave behind a few hand grenades (♣) worth of money.

 

The last three were places we visited, but didn’t shop at. The reason I left them empty handed didn’t have anything to do with their selections or the friendliness of their staffs, but more the fact that it was about 90 degrees outside with a humidity at somewhere around 257%, where you’d basically sweat and the sweat on your body wouldn’t evaporate because it was like you were walking inside a boiling swimming pool. And I just didn’t feel like walking around with bags of records in that. So sue me.

Peaches Records
4318 Magazine Street

Big shop inside an old Woolworth’s store (complete with a soda fountain counter… unfortunately not in operation) that also had some magnificent air conditioning, Peaches had a broad selection of CDs and vinyl. Holly bought one of their retro t-shirts and based on what little I saw I know I could have dropped a few hundred in there without much trouble.

NOLA Mix Records
1522 Magazine Street

Another relatively small shop with a pretty eclectic selection. Some good 80s stuff, reggae, rock and jazz.

Louisiana Music Factory
421 Frenchman Street

This was within walking distance of our bed & breakfast on the fringes of the French Quarter. Great selection of jazz and Cajun music that I fully planned on exploring, but after I’d picked up a half dozen titles earlier in the trip I simply decided I didn’t want to bring more on the airplane. If you’re interested in jazz, swing, Cajun or anything along those lines, this is a must stop. Just don’t let the shop cat out when you open the door!

 

(♠) Which we saw.

(♣) The hand grenade comes in a green plastic cup shaped like a hand grenade and with a long tube coming off the top, because you need as much space as possible for liquor and whatever sweet liquid they put in there with it. The container looks like it could be MacGyvered into a bong in 30 seconds flat.

Bonemen of Barumba (1981-84)

No matter how big of a music fan you think you are, no matter how much time you spend scouring the internet and talking to people in record stores and reading obscure zines, inevitably there are tons of great musicians and bands that you will never hear of, let alone actually hear with your own ears. It would be foolish to not recognize that there are a few, if not dozens (or hundreds) of performers you would absolutely fall in love with if you ever heard them… but because life is short there’s a good chance your paths will never cross. It would be easy to feel anxious and sad and nihilistic about this. But I prefer to see it as exciting, because you never know what might be around the next corner or in the next dollar bin.

I wasn’t looking for Bonemen of Barumba records when I ran across their 1982 EP Driving The Bats Thru Jerusalem at my local joint Vortex the other day. That’s not because I thought Vortex was an unlikely spot to find them, but because I’d never heard of them before. I pulled it from the rack because the cover had that early 1980s vibe to it, that sort of Crass format that screamed punk rock. It was only a few bucks so I rolled the dice and got more than I bargained for, because it’s a four-song burner. I was going to write about it right then and there, but I got so caught up in the music that instead I went straight to the internet, first to Discogs and then eBay, and bought both their other releases (their 1981 self-titled 10″ and sole LP, 1984s Icons) and for good measure spent seven bucks on a vintage press kit some intrepid soul had listed and probably secretly doubted they’d ever sell. I figured I’d wait for all that stuff to arrive and then work my way through the Bonemen’s modest catalog all in one sitting. And that is how I found myself sitting here on a Saturday with my second cup of coffee and ready to get after it.

Looking over the press kit as well as some stuff online, the basic gist of the Bonemen story is that the first iteration of the band formed as the result of a chance meeting of Tom Jonusaitis and Mark Panick at Mardi Gras in 1981. That led to the aforementioned five-song 10″ Bonemen of Barumba. After receiving some positive feedback on that effort they brought together a larger group of musicians and creative types to help them perform live and also expand the group’s reach outside of music and into things like videos and floats (like as in an actual parade float). Chicago-based but nomadic, they found some success in Europe and Japan as well as parts of the US, but unfortunately went their separate ways following the release of Icons a few years later. They got some solid press, especially for Driving The Bats Thru Jerusalem, though I found this clip from their kit particularly telling, not so much for the review but because of the notation about Adam Ant and Bow Wow Wow:

“Disregard”. No one can accuse the Bonemen of not being opinionated.

Bonemen of Barumba (1981) 10″

At five songs and under nine minutes the Bonemen’s debut was a “don’t blink or you’ll miss it” affair. Opening with a brief tribal drumming sequence we rage right into the in-your-face “Government Money”, a song that combines tribal beats, a militaristic chorus, and some fuzzy guitars into an anti-government anthem. That’s followed by the Purrkur Pillnikk-esque “Is It That Time Again?” that uses some grating guitar progressions and shouted/whiney vocals to create an overall sense of agitation. The flip side (listed on the back as the “Not So Annoying Side”) kicks off with the pure goth-rock of “Walking With The Deadman”, a tune combining old-school country with early Joy Division (think Warsaw era) to give you something gloomy, bizarre, and fantastic. The album closes with a reggae track, because why not? “Rankers Chant” has a bit of that white reggae feel à la The Clash about it, though played a bit slower than the English punks were known for. Five songs, five different styles. The consistent element is the overall “rebel against The Man” theme to the lyrics.

Driving The Bats Thru Jerusalem (1982) EP

Driving The Bats Thru Jerusalem sees the Bonemen stick with their tribal drumming style, but things take a more post-punk turn. They also seem to become a bit less experimental and more intentional in their sound, even to the point of ensuring all four songs are of radio-friendly length, ranging from 3:30 to just a shade over five minutes.

“Pity It Ain’t” certainly has a dose of punk rock to it, and it’s one of the band’s best numbers. “Talk Is Fat” reverts a bit back to the “Is It That Time Again?” vibe from the previous record, though a bit more funky in the rhythm section. On the reverse “Thick Promise” is a rock-solid post-punk jam, all dark and moody and attitude (plus saxophone… because 1980s!), and the closer “Toombah For Ronnie” adds some dub elements that remind me of something that On-U would have put out around the same time.

Driving The Bats Thru Jerusalem is much more stylistically consistent than Bonemen of Barumba. It may be an example of a band thinking to itself, “you know, we’re actually pretty good and if we stopped messing around we can probably put out some solid songs”.

Icons (1984) LP

Icons continues the Bonemen’s move into a darker direction, and I’m finally hearing why people often refer to them as “goth rock”. I didn’t hear anything too gothy on the first two records with the possible exception of “Walking With The Deadman,” but now the band has moved into some gloomy territory.

An interesting side note, I found another blog that wrote about this record back in 2010 and the blogger commented that while the vinyl looked pristine his copy had some sections that skipped. The same is true of mine, which also looks super clean and got caught in a skip cycle early on the first track “Don’t Tell”. However, because of how clean the skip was (i.e. you couldn’t tell it was skipping per se until you realized the beat had just stayed the same for a couple of minutes) I’m beginning to wonder if it isn’t a locked groove, and given the odd nature of the Bonemen I wouldn’t be surprised if this was done intentionally. (♠) They rhythms continue to flirt heavily with funk (check out “Pain Turtle”).

Lyrically we stay on the downer side with tales of the being beaten down, broken relationships, three songs that refer to hell, and another two that use the word corpse. It is not, to be clear, uplifting. Perhaps the most intriguing song in this regard is “Jesus Made of Wood,” which has not one but two vocal segments that are done in Finnish, and I have no idea what that’s all about. (♣)

 

For my money Driving The Bats Thru Jerusalem is the Bonemen of Barumba at their best, showing as it does an interesting mix of musical styles. Icons is a good record, but it doesn’t stick out in the same was as its predecessors do – by then the band had moved more towards a specific genre.

(♠) I have no proof of this, it is purely a conspiracy theory. But I like a good conspiracy theory.

(♣) Both these verses use the Finnish word “helvetti”, which means “hell”, so I count this as one of the three hell songs on the album. If you don’t like it you can go to helvetti.

Sóley – “Endless Summer” (2017)

Our friend Leana arrived in Seattle this week and when I picked her up at the airport she passed along a copy of Sóley’s new album Endless Summer that she got during a show Sóley played at Sofar Sounds in Reykjavik. It’s good to have friends! As an added bonusit’s the limited edition turquoise version (edition of 150), which is pretty cool.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Sóley perform her solo stuff before, though I did see her once as part of Seabear (she’s also part of Sin Fang). Her solo material is quiet, melodic, and a bit sparse, giving her floating voice space to play. The emphasis is on piano and voice, with the low end of the piano providing what little bass structure the songs have. Sóley uses it to great effect, though, and can bring things to a crescendo when she chooses as she does on “Grow”, arguably the best song on the album (and I’m not saying that because it was released as a single… I only found that out after the fact; sometimes the best song is obviously there for everyone to hear).

Endless Summer is a beautiful album and one worth your time to check out. Sóley offers up some of the songs on her Bandcamp page HERE, so give it a listen.