Though independent cassette releases have been a fixture in the underground for decades, the format has been steadily on the rise to mainstream prominence in recent years. As we arrive at the halfway mark of 2014 we decided to recap some of the better local releases since the year turned over.
Dross - Tape III (Absenter Records)
This is as pure as Depressive Black Metal gets. Bouncing off of references like Hypothermia, Xasthur, and Silencer, Dross is a band driven by honesty and progress and executes their miserable task with surgical exactitude. Tape III collapses in on itself with relentless, atmospheric dirges topped with miserable, wallowing vocals fit for a torture chamber. Released via the burgeoning Absenter Records, this tape is a collection of the group's first two releases that are long out of print. This is the class of music that makes you want to drive to the nearest garage, roll the windows down, and breathe deep: the soundtrack to utter futility, driven with the undeniable alienation that stems from living in a wasteland of scorching concrete and blight. Excellent. Mallevs - V.V.V.V.V. (Ascetic House)
By far one of the best tapes released during Ascetic House's robust January Program, Mallevs' V.V.V.V.V. delivers a refreshing brand of industrial dark wave phantasms. The overall tone of the album feels like floating in a sea of vacancy, with only the faint flutter of vocalist Jen Deveroux's harmonies guiding you towards the veiled light. There's a wonderfully balanced interplay in this band between a mechanically percussive edge and the haunting presence of dreary synth progressions. As if early era Death In June had a head-on collision with Sisters of Mercy. Their self-titled debut LP is due out this week on Gilgongo Records. Highly recommended! Humiliation - Demo '14 (Anxiety Machine Records)
From the first track on this demo onward you come to understand immediately that Humiliation is holding absolutely nothing back. They nail some of the most crucial points in hardcore dead on: seething aggression, uncompromising creative vision, and scathing delivery. This band has tapping into a sound that's become more and more sparse in hardcore, following the footsteps of progressive bands like Cold Sweat, Die Kreuzen, and Rorschach. For a relatively new band this is certainly starting out with its best foot forward. I'm excited to see how they progress in the near future. Daisy Face- Dirt (Rubber Brother Records)
Daisy Face plays their own brand of '90s-inspired weirdo pop rock along the lines of Hum and Built To Spill. The songs are slowed down to a crawl for the most part but stop shy of what I would classify as shoegaze. Whatever these guys are doing, they're doing it well. Excellent duel harmonies and guitar leads. The key lead in Breakfast maybe one of the catchiest in recent history, catchy enough to be stuck in my head for three damn days at least. Honorable Mention: Solid Brown - Tape EP (self-release)
It's always refreshing to see a band not take themselves too seriously but stop short of being a gimmick. Solid Brown pulls off this subtly iconoclastic maneuver quite well by releasing their first EP on compact disc under the title Tape. The statement kills two birds with one stone in terms of poignancy: firstly pointing out the fact that 90 percent of the time people don't listen to the physical tapes -- they buy and just jam it on Bandcamp or YouTube (I myself am guilty of this at times) -- and secondly, as soon as something becomes too inflated within the mainstream it begins to lose its pizzazz so to speak; I mean, Limp Bizkit just put out a cassette-only release. All that aside, this demo also happens to rule. Awesome shoegaze-tinged bedroom rock that's guaranteed to knock anyone's good mood down a peg or two. Reminds me of Low only loaded up with tranquilizers playing songs half their length. The art is fitting as well -- a human face dissolving into a pixilated blur -- and each copy comes with a personalized insert with a message from the band.
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