We've already vilified ourselves for missing Street Sects's 2016 monster End Position, and if you haven't heard it either, feel free to go spin the record now and share in our shame. The duo of multi-instrumentalist Shaun Ringsmuth and vocalist Leo Ashline came through with an exceptional dose of hyper-aggressive synth punk on End Position, making a bold statement in a genre defined by intensifying punk and its offshoots' many disparate mannerisms. Not only was the album a debut that far exceeded the benchmark for a successful freshman full-length, it received well-deserved praise from the fickle beast that is the indie blogosphere. Perhaps the album's success can be attributed to endorsement of well-respected "dark music" label The Flenser, or it could be due to the growing acceptance of heavy music as part of "normal" music consumption. However, there's one undisputed factor for End Positions's success, being the album's undeniably impressive blend of industrial music and hardcore punk in a way that synth punk hasn't seen done this well before. Seriously, if you haven't heard this record, stop reading and go listen to it now; I won't be offended, I promise.
As obsessive music fans, we have a pretty intense love/hate relationship with the constant onslaught of new music that crosses our paths on a weekly basis. By the time we sit down to compile our Release Day Roundup every Thursday, there's a whole new slate of records that we need to tack onto our backlogs of new albums from weeks past, a list that remains replete throughout the year. This being the case, there are bound to be a handful of these albums that slip through the cracks, only to cross our paths months or years later and leave us wondering what possible reason we could have had to not listen to it sooner. While the time has passed to recommend these albums for your 2017 year end lists, we've decided to tweak our typical "Hey! Listen to..." series to launch Heavy Delinquency, which will allow us to talk about albums we slept on and make sure they receive the attention they deserve. Which brings us to Street Sects, the inspiration for this column and one of the greatest bands in modern synth punk.
Over the past several releases, New York-based White Suns have crafted an abrasive and esoteric noise rock formula. Rather than operating in the genre's standard fare of "noisy rock," the trio of Kevin Barry (vocals, guitar), Rick Visser (guitar, electronics) and Dana Matthiesen (drums, electronics) have opted instead for a seamless marriage of noise and experimental rock, with an elevated mood of unease conjured by Barry's cryptic lyricism and spoken word delivery. It's a peculiar formula which unfolded spectacularly across nine disorienting tracks on the band's previous effort, Totem (2014). The album presented an abundance of these unhinged noise rock bastardizations accented by extended passages of dark ambiance and industrial noise that created a painful degree of suspenseful dread before the band finally released the listener back into its chaos-ridden assault. It's the styling of these moments that composes the bulk of Psychic Drift, a four-track bludgeoning anchored by a nightmarish lyrical* journey as disturbing as the music that engulfs Barry's narration.
In their down time from story-boarding episodes of Rick and Morty and Mr. Pickles for Adult Swim, the team at Williams Street Productions has been an odd source of quality underground music compilations and albums. Not only does their catalog feature works from the likes of Captain Murphy (a.k.a Flying Lotus) and Destruction Unit alongside annual, multi-genre compilations, nearly all of these albums are entirely free to stream and download. If you're searching for a negative here, there isn't one, a point the company proved yet again last month with their most avant-garde offering to date. The appropriately blunt title for NOISE should point to the abrasiveness of this collection of tracks; an eclectic range of compositions from an equally broad roster of artists, all of whom approach "noise" as a malleable concept meant to be stretched to its limit.