King Ani Mal – “Turbo” Cassette (2019)

What the hell is in the water (or perhaps it’s the Yuengling) in Philly these days that is producing so much great music? I bought a bunch of tapes from the Suicide Bong label and its been one surprise after another. The most recent is King Ani Mal’s Turbo, which came out right at the close of 2019. If I had to hang one genre tag on Turbo it would be hip hop, but that feels insufficient to describe King Ani Mal’s style and flow. Just listen to the bells (yes, I said bells) on “Drip Too Wet” and try to explain what’s happening here. It’s so easy to allow yourself to get drawn into King Ani Mal’s world and allow it to cover you like a thick warm blanket on a cold night. His compositions are short – none clock in at even four minutes and most are less than three, though all feel fully realized.

Turbo is available on the Suicide Bong Bandcamp page HERE, including on limited edition (of 100) cassette.

PLOT – “Caught Dead” Cassette (2019)

“Yes, that’s what my day needed, right there,” Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane said when the opening riff to “You Can Go Now” burst out of the speakers.

I’m writing this on a Monday. We’re off work for the entire week. And let’s be clear – given the current state of the virus-pocalypse we’re both just grateful to have jobs, and jobs that allow us to work from home to boot. But… we’re supposed to be in Milan, Italy right now on vacation. And instead we spent the start of week six of lockdown, and the first vacation day we’ve taken in six months, at home, doing exciting things like pressure washing, scraping windows, and prepping things for paint. Again – all things considered, we’re super thankful. But like many folks we’re worn a bit ragged, and PLOT’s brand of punk/metal crossover hit the spot this evening as we hunkered down for the night and began our attempt to not drink too much hard liquor.

Caught Dead has an edge to it. The high end on “Hand Wire” tears into your brain like a red-hot wire, slicing out impossibly think layer after impossibly thin layer, cauterizing your higher functions and bringing you down to your basest instincts and desires, and the instrumental “2197” is a bit intense, kind of what I imagine the Mayan apocalypse would have sounded like had it happened. And the relentless pounding of the 6+ minute ‘Shed” will rock your damn face off.

Give Caught Dead a listen on Bandcamp HERE, and pick up a copy on limited edition (of 100) cassette while you’re at it for just seven bucks.

WRISTS – “WRISTS” Cassette (2018)

Opening with a long burst of static, “Dead Friends / Ex Lovers” breaks free into a lo-fi journey into darkness, pulsing, the vocals distorted and dragged out like fingernails on a chalkboard, your worst subconscious impulses converted to sound. The synths try to break free with a kind of 8-bit triumphant march only to be crushed down at the end by a wall of distortion. “Black Moon Curses” tries to recapture this escape from darkness, but is quickly pulled back into the depths by clawing hands, the two forces battling across the song’s three-and-a-half minutes, not so much dancing around one another but existing simultaneously in the same space like two distinct compositions being played at the same time. And lest you think that’s a criticism, I assure you it isn’t. The pull of the opposites is like a tug of war taking place within your mind. “Beckoning of Blood” marks the beginning of the end, the end of the light trying to assert itself, leaving behind only the basest impulses before finally giving way to “Frost and Dust”, its synths not uplifting but instead eerie and unsettling with pacing that implies something chasing you through the depths of your subconscious, something bound to eventually catch up with and devour you.

WRISTS is available on the Suicide Bong Bandcamp page HERE, both digitally and in a limited edition (of 100) cassette release.

Janelle – “Fault Lines” (2016)

Janelle brings some heavy synths to the shoegaze world. Fault Line‘s songs flit about like birds in winter, a bit languid and jerky, not purposely flying from place to place but instead just trying to survive one more cold season. The pacing is subdued, though every inch of the sonic canvas is covered with sound, dense waves moving slowly through the cold air. The pace picks up a bit on “Syncopation”, which is like coming up for a breath before slowly sinking back into the cool embrace of the album’s last two songs. There’s something familiar about Fault Lines, but I just can’t place it. But no matter. The comparisons aren’t necessary – it’s enjoyable on its own merit.

You can hear Fault Lines on Bandcamp HERE, and the vinyl is just ten bucks.

Kahlil Ali – “Song 100” (2019)

Generally when I think of the Suicide Bong label I think of punk and metal. But the Bong covers more than just those genres, especially when it comes to their local scene in Philadelphia. So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when I pushed play on Kahlil Ali’s Song 100 and heard some hip hop. But it was a surprise, and even more so because it was so damn good.

There’s a nice profile of Kahlil HERE, and since I don’t have anything new to offer on that front I’ll leave that for you to check out. As for Song 100, it’s the flow that makes it special – recognizably hip hop, Ali leans more towards the conscious side of the spectrum. The message is important here as he raps about his neighborhood; sure, the beats and samples are luscious, but the raps… the raps… flowing over the song structure like rushing river that is only barely contained and directed by its banks, fast here, a slow pool there, all of it cool and crisp as it continues to follow the path it has cut for itself. He’s also not afraid to turn things completely on their head, like the brief “Zen” on which his only accompaniment is an acoustic guitar.

Song 100 was initially released last year on a limited edition (of 100) cassette, which is still available on Bandcamp HERE. Earlier this year it also got a limited edition (also of 100) vinyl release thanks to FDH, and that one can be found HERE. Both pages will also allow you to check out all the songs, and trust me, if you listen, you’re going to want to buy it.