Soft Metals – “The Cold World Melts” (2010)

Time for a music quiz. Please put an X in the box if the statement is true. When finished, count how many Xs you entered.

** Tip: Don’t write on your computer monitor with a Sharpie. You’ll be able to complete the quiz and calculate the score, but you might suffer from a case of “Residual X Syndrome”. **

[ ] Do you like music?

[ ] Do you like synthesizers?

What was your score? If it was 2, then immediately go to the Bandcamp page HERE and listen to Soft Metals’ The Cold World Melts and have your mind blown.

If you scored 1, well, go to Bandcamp anyway and listen to this. Maybe that will result in your score increasing to 2 next time around.

If you scored 0… well, there’s always sitting around in the quiet and looking at the wall. That’s cool too. If that’s what you’re into.

Kuldaboli – “Ég elska þig eilífa stríð” (2018)

I’m starting to wonder if Kuldaboli is actively trying to avoid having his releases appear in my year-end Top 5 list. For the second time in three years he dropped something in mid-to-late December, ensuring that I wouldn’t hear it in time for it to be considered. In 2016 it was the brilliant CD Vafasamur Lífsstíll 2015-2016, and last year (all of about six weeks ago…) it was the five-song 12″ Ég elska þig eilífa stríð. Having met him once in person, I feel comfortable this isn’t true – it’s not like he took a swing at me or told me my taste sucks or kicked my dog. But damn, these late-in-the-year releases are killer. Maybe I just need to start doing Google searches for “Kuldaboli” starting on December 1 every year, and keep searching every day until I post my year-end lists. It’s the only chance I have.

Ég elska þig eilífa stríð sees Kuldaboli at his electro-creepy best, with sinister beats, eerily high synths, and heavily modulated vocals. Most of it is dance floor ready, though “Leyndarmál” spins out a religious-gothic-horror vibe that would be the perfect soundtrack to an exorcism. You can listen to all five tracks on Soundcloud HERE, at least for the time being. I particularly recommend the aforementioned “Leyndarmál” and the opening cut “Trúðu þínum eigin augum”.

“U-Boats Attack America!!!” Compilation (1986)

Hardcore is generally not my thing. That being said, I do enjoy some of the stuff done in Europe in the early to mid-1980s, so with that in mind I decided to give U-Boats Attack America!!! a try. The comp consists of 15 tracks by seven different German hardcore bands, all recorded between 1983 and 1985 and released originally on the Weird System label.

Overall my favorite tracks are those by Neurotic Arseholes, with Blut + Eisen coming in a strong second. But to be honest the entire thing is solid from top to bottom – plenty of speed and punk attitude. If you’re into hardcore and interested in checking out some of the European stuff, this is a great starting point. I’ll be in Germany later this year and all these bands will be on my list when I hit the streets of Berlin to go digging.


Mattesque – “Album” (2018)

Mattesque and I knew of each other before we formally met. We’re part of that dedicated group of Iceland Airwaves fans and over the years we’d see one another at various shows and even at the airport when we happened to be on the same flight to or from Reykjavik. There are dozens of people who we have this kind of strange relationship with, people we recognize on sight but have never actually spoken to. I’m sure Holly and I are part of other people’s recognition circles as well, probably even a few who we personally wouldn’t know on sight. Fortunately a few years back at Bíó Paradís he walked up and said hi, and we all quickly became fast friends. Hopefully we’ll catch up at Airwaves again this year.

Mattesque makes his living with sound. Have you ever wondered where the music and non-music sounds in video games come from? They come from guys like Mattesque, making noise on whatever comes their way, funneling it through various pedals and electro-gizmos in the never-ending quest to make something unique and interesting. He also makes non-gaming music, which you can check out on his Bandcamp page HERE.

Album is a collection of nine ambient and experimental tracks Mattesque wrote in 2018. I’ve been playing it quite a bit lately in various environments – at home, on airplanes, in coffee shops, on my commute – and everywhere I listen it sounds a bit different, interacting with the environment in different ways, a given track fading into the background in a noisy Starbucks but capturing all my attention during an early morning drive to work. If there’s an underlying thread that connects these tracks, to me that would be “introspection”. Of course, that might just be me imparting my psyche onto Mattesque’s art. But isn’t that part of the experience of art? There is an aloneness to the sound. Not lonely… but simply alone. And you can be alone inside a crowded Starbucks in a way that’s not much different than if you were on the dark side of the moon.

Every time I listen to Album it’s the third song, “Long Facts”, that hits me in the face like an unexpected slap. There’s a sharp suddenness to the way it follows the first two tracks, the electronics cold as ice, bringing a precision that makes it impossible to ignore. “In Deep Waves” continues the futuristic feel of “Long Facts” but without the frigidity, moving us into an old lava tube underground where you can start to feel some of the heat of the earth’s core, the pulsing beat like the heartbeat of the planet. I could listen to this 10 minute segment of Album over and over again.

There are some dark turns to Album, places where the mood becomes more sinister. “First Wave Release” transmits an implied danger, not overtly, but more the sense of being in a situation that could result in trouble. It has an underwater feel, like snorkeling and ending up in a dark patch of water in a place where you know there are things that could sting you (or worse) if you’re not careful. It’s not a Great White circling you, but more of a heightened sense of being outside your native environment and in a place where you have minimal control.

“Dark Bit Faders” takes things in an industrial direction. We’re not talking IDM here, but true industrial, the low end beat overlaid with a very metallic, higher pitched one. It’s an industrial sound like one would expect to find inside a factory, the widgets being pounded out by the machinery one after another after another, an endless cycle of production only limited by the need to have a human dump the raw materials into the gaping maw as the assembly line is fed, it’s appetite endless, only stopping when there is nothing left to consume.

I thought about reaching out Mattesque and asking a few questions about his perceptions about Album, but the more I thought about it the more I was reminded of the scene in Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil when John Cusack’s character John Kelso asks Jim Williams if he has x-rayed a painting to see the original painting underneath.

Cusack: How will you know what it’s obscuring?

Jim Williams: I rather enjoy not knowing.

I rather enjoy not knowing too. There’s a lot to like on Album. If your tastes run toward dark ambient, you’ll likely find some things to pull into a loving dark embrace. You can listen to the entire thing on Mattesque’s Bandcamp page as well as purchase your own download, so if you like it, buy it. The money isn’t going to some corporate mega-label so they can trickle a few pennies back to the performer, it’s about supporting the artist directly.

Loli & The Chones – “P.S. We Hate You” (1997)

Loli & The Chones, where have you been all my life?

Loli (Michelle Santamaria) and her Chones (Chris Santamaria and Vince Maldonado) play blistering fast rock ‘n’ roll, the kind of stuff that comes blasting out of garages on weekends from whatever amps and equipment that a group of teenage outcasts can cobble together. If you close your eyes you can imagine the scene in your mind. The water heater tank in the corner. Metal shelving with assorted tools, sports equipment and household detritus. Oil stains on the floor from that persistent leak in the 1978 Buick. And maybe an old beer sign on the wall. And the sweetest, dirtiest, fastest rock music, played with no sense of irony or self-consciousness, blaring out of the amps pegged at 11.

The vocal duties are shared, though my favorite tracks are those with Loli on the mic. “I’ve Got a Gun” is a classic, as is “Nazi Death Camp”, which compares all the rules faced by teens to being in a Nazi death camp, the classic mega-teen-exaggeration that happens when every single thing in your life seems epically important (pro tip – it’s not). That’s not to say that the Chones don’t carry their weight as well, because “I D*O*N*’T” and “Pendejo” are pure bursts of punk rock street attitude.

There are two versions of the vinyl release. The first is on black wax and consists of 14 tracks. The second is a limited edition of 500 on red vinyl with 16 tracks… amazingly all squeezed onto the A side, with the B side totally blank. I ended up with the red version, and while I was a bit concerned about so much being crammed onto one side, the overall quality of the red pressing is excellent – no problems with noise or inner groove distortion that I could hear. The tow extra tracks are “Bored Bored Bored” and “Flip Out”, neither of which appear on the track listing on the reverse. In fact the red version appears to come in the same jacket as the black, with tracks listed for Side 1 and Side 2.