Brothers of the Sonic Cloth

Interview: Brothers of the Sonic Cloth

CALGARY — TAD come up, when they come up at all, as an anomaly among Seattle’s grunge bands, more inspired by ‘70s metal than punk. Among Sub Pop Records’ first signees, the band was extremely active. Between 1989 to 1995 they released six albums, but disbanded in 1999 following a string of bizarre events: getting sued by Pepsi for alleged copyright infringement, getting sued by a born again Christian for depicting them topless (with their consent), and getting dropped by a label following a poster depicting then-president Bill Clinton smoking a joint. The band’s frontman Tad Doyle formed another band, Hog Molly, releasing one record before breaking up.

After that, Doyle went on a 15-year hiatus, relocating from rainy Seattle to San Diego, marrying and putting music behind him.

“I was just relaxing and enjoying my life,” Doyle says. “I did a lot of soul searching and pretty much wrote off music. I was OK with never playing music again.”

The feeling changed.

“I heard ‘War Pigs’ by Black Sabbath on the radio and it bought me to tears,” he explains. “I knew I had to start playing again and that’s what started Brothers.”

 

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H&M gets Trolled: Unethical Fashion Giant vs. ‘Strong Scene Productions’

y now, if you’ve been following the always fractious relationship between underground music and high-street fashion, you’ll have heard of Strong Scene Productions, H&M, and fake National-Socialist Black Metal Bands. In brief, the Swedish fast-fashion brand was accused of “one of the more ill-advised marketing campaigns in recent history.” Allegedly, they had created a fake metal label, Strong Scene Productions, complete with Youtube videos and a Facebook page. They had a roster of equally fake bands that included ‘LA/NY’, a ‘fierce representative of the French Black Legions’ who have been on hiatus since 2001 after running afoul of France’s anti-revisionist laws (which forbid denying the reality of certain crimes against humanity, chief amongst them the Holocaust.)
If you read Vice’s Noisey site today (hey, we won’t judge), then you’ll know that the whole thing was an elaborate piece of trolling, committed, appropriately enough, by Henri Sorvali of Finntroll (and Moonsorrow). H&M had no part in it, and the whole thing was designed to draw attention the tone-deaf appropriation of metal imagery by H&M, and the fashion industry at large.

Read more at CVLTNATION

Sunless Sea

Sunless Sea

Fifteen minutes. I’m mostly looking at my phone, very occasionally looking up to adjust my course. It’s a straight line from London to an island of apes working on a Zeppelin for which I, against the express wishes of the Admiralty, am supplying fuel. Admittedly, not as much ‘supplying’ as using my sharp tongue and analytical skills to persuade the simian residents of the Isle of Hands that they shouldn’t get hung up on all this ‘fuel’ business. Of course I have an ulterior motive: something awful wrapped in bandages wants me to find him, it, colours and is willing to pay big. The apes are undoubtedly- undoubtedly, hiding something. Perhaps I’m still regretting selling one my soul for a mere 200 echoes, and sore from the apes’ refusal of my gift of fresh souls unsullied by my unfortunate cannibalism habit.

Sunless Sea has me speaking to friends about my wanderings- I wouldn’t call them adventures- in a cavernous underground sea as if they were in any way normal. It has me thinking about my crew, and hoping that they’re okay. They didn’t ask to be captained by a soulless cannibal with sloppy time management- the latter a much greater risk to their well-being since I far more often find myself adrift and out of fuel. The game takes the Dark Souls-ian ‘you will die’ approach, but unlike From Software’s magnum opus, dead really does mean dead, and necessitates starting over in the basic ship with all your completed missions reset, the map faded back to black and perhaps some money in the bank if your predecessor bothered to set some aside for you.

A tentacle has just reached onto the deck of my frigate, the Undauntlessable, and pulled one of my crew to his death. Best to ignore it and move on. Also, it doesn’t seem that people die here, only change. Into what is a question I’m trying to ignore.

Sunless Sea is that kind of survival game, the kind that presupposes your death and never allows you to settle in to a mid-to-end game state where your stats and equipment have made you a nigh- Schwarzeneggerian powerhouse. You will always need fuel and supplies, you will always go insane after spending too long at sea. Despite being ostensibly a rougelike with influences from Elite, activities like trading and combat are not viable paths to wealth. There also doesn’t appear to be a central story as such, although the full version (it has been on Steam Greenlight for some time) does have what appears to be a central quest revolving around finding your father’s bones. In practice this quest-line doesn’t have any more weight than the monkey-Zeppelin, the fungal spores, the chess game, the pirates trading in honey made from memories.

No matter how far you upgrade it your ship will always feel heavy and slow. A ninety degree turn will always take far longer than you want and combat, which should be avoided in most cases, isn’t dogfighting as much as it is the trading of body-blows until one combatant falls. After perhaps fifteen hours at sea and upgrading to a mid-level frigate with high-level weapons I only feel confident in engaging about a quarter of the game’s enemies. When they appear I kill my ship’s lights and try to pass undetected.

There’s something called The Dawn Machine squatting in the south-western corner of the map. I know that if I go near it my crew are gripped by terror, and I know that I had inadvertently aided it in a deal on construction materials that I didn’t fully understand. I’m hoping that if I ignore it The Dawn Machine and its vassals won’t do anything awful, like end the world. That seems like something it would do.

But then you’ll only be at sea (at ‘zee’, in the game’s parlace) for half of your time. The rest is spent ashore, where the game changes to a choose-your-own-adventure. Should you have certain items or traits new options will open up and there are chance-based tests of your character’s stats. This part of the game, that could have been built on any computer going back to the ZX Spectrum, is where the game really shines. The writing is amazing. The world-building is subtle and, for something set in an alternative 19th century, surprisingly progressive. Gender and sexual identity is fluid, women occupy positions of power, there are few if any sexist tropes. It’s refreshing to just be able to have fun with rolling one’s eyes at worn-out plot devices and reach-arounds to a presumed audience of teenage boys. Yet, as great as the prose is, these sections can be maddeningly opaque.

The game, at times, can be staggeringly un-fun, never providing constant stimulation but always needing just enough of your attention that you can’t do something in another window until you’re across the map. Game-breaking events like the loss of enough crew that your ship can only move at half-speed happen regularly, but not regularly enough that you’ll want to stop playing. Making money from anything other than quests is difficult to the point that you find yourself selling the items that you need to complete said quests just to buy enough fuel to make it to the next island. When you think that you’ve found a steady income stream, like the explorer who will pay for easy to obtain trade items, it can disappear.

I pass a Particularly Tormented Bound Shark, a megalodon in brass bondage-gear with significantly more health and manoeuvrability than the Undauntlessable. Who bound it and why it is ‘particularly tormented’, I will never know.

Despite being a naval vessel with fifteen crewmen and multiple weapons my ship is an inch-long sliver in the centre of the screen, nearly always smaller than its assailants. There’s no power fantasy here. Sunless Sea wants you to feel weak and afraid. Though its squamous, unnamable horror is pure Lovecraft and its socially-aware steampunk aesthetic borrowed from China Mieville, its metaphysics, its deepest core, might be Kafka. The individual is less often at the mercy of Elder Gods than bureaucracy and broken systems, especially the purposefully broken game mechanics that ensure that there is no good way to play, that you will never have enough and you will never feel safe.

Sayonara Zetsubou

There are twenty-seven people with me on the bus ride to the Tōjinbō Cliffs. According to a Japanese government white paper published earlier this year one in five will seriously consider suicide in their lifetimes.
I do the math: Five-point-four people on this bus.
Thirty-four-point-eight in every one hundred thousand will go through with it, according to two-thousand and six figures. Over three times as many as back home. There was that thing in north Wales a while back. Wish I could remember.

My legs still ache from an hour of Shikantaza this morning. That’s sitting meditation. I am not used to this climate.
My body is covered in a permanent superskin of sweat. I have to wear a long-sleeved t-shirt to hide a tattoo on my wrist, the letter X.
The Tōjinbō Cliffs are a national monument of scenic beauty, a kilometre of pyroxene andesite which the guidebook says ‘(stand) gallantly against the raging waves of the Sea of Japan’. Think of the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim or Durdle Door near Lulworth. I like that image, standing gallantly against raging waves.
I’m headed to the Tōjinbō Cliffs to meet Yukio Shige, retired police officer, written about by CNN, the BBC and Associated Press, and now by me. On evenings, when the tourists are gone but the waves remain, Yukio Shige walks the Tōjinbō Cliffs looking for people about to jump.
Yukio Shige has saved one hundred and fifty lives. He spends hours talking people through their problems, then further hours contacting their families, finding the people he saves housing and work if he can.
I get off the bus at a tourist pavilion, have a cigarette.

A path has been torn into the scrubland by all those millions of tourists over the hundreds of years of their coming here. I walk it.
Yukio Shige agreed to meet me on the cliffs. We would walk the kilometre with my recorder running and, maybe, I’d get to see him talk somebody out of dying. Unlikely, I think, since it’s a Sunday afternoon. Tourists are here; hundreds of potential Yukio Shiges.
I’m far from Fukui City’s womb heat and noise. I have to zip up my hooded sweatshirt and listen to the roaring, unremitting sea breeze. I’m a country boy who gets deeply uncomfortable outdoors.
Grass gives way to trees, sun to shade. The wind stops but the air stays chill.
On the pebbles in Lyme Regis or looking out on the glass flat water between Weymouth and Portland there would be sea birds. Even inland, with a storm out at sea, they would be overhead. Here there are Cicadas. They start singing in early Spring and don’t stop until summer ends. They provide an aural background to my day, they keep me awake at night, when every window in my flat is open. In many Asian cultures they are symbols of renewal and good fortune.
When I lived in Norwich the nights sounded like sirens and the plumbing exhaling, distant motor­cycles on the A352 growing up in Sherborne. Here at night, on my balcony, cigarettes, the city sounds like a radio in another room searching for a tuning.
The woodland ends and opens onto the Tōjinbō Cliffs. Everything stands in awe of them. Even the Cicadas fade out.
I walk right up to the edge. Straight line, directly forward. It’s not that far down. Barely twenty-five meters.
Yukio Shige and I were meeting near the Sandan Rocks. South of me, according to the map. The cliffs face West, towards the setting sun, explaining their popularity. Left, I have to go left to go South.
I look for pairs of shoes by the cliff-side. I imagine that a person would take off their shoes if were to jump.
It occurs to me that the fall wouldn’t be sufficient to kill. People survive the sixty-seven meter drop from Golden Gate bridge (only five percent, but it’s possible, then there are sharks.) Hitting rocks on the way down, ragdoll physics, spending your last second as Newton’s plaything, even that would be risky. In a sense.

I have with me a print-out of suicide methods in both the US and England-slash-Wales. The broadest strokes were predictable, but down in the one-percents there were some surprises. Fifty percent of American suicides involved a firearm, with men twenty-percent more likely to go that way. In England-slash-Wales hanging and suffocation were the preferred method. Cutting was very low down both lists, two and three percent respectively. Drowning was one percent for the US and four for the old country. I wonder why this is. Iron-age, pre-Roman Celts, they had their sacred springs and holy wells, thresholds between the living and the dead, depositories for sacrifices, and it’s possible, maybe, that this association still exists.

Half a percent set themselves on fire.
You would drown. Hard to say how deep the blue-black-green water is, but the strong currents are undeniable. You’d be in good company: Virginia Woolfe, Spalding Gray, Norman Jaffe, Lao She.
Osamu Dazai- his book No Longer Human is one of the most widely read books of the twentieth century here. Donald Keene’s English translation is in my back pocket. He and his mistress Tomie Yamazaki drowned themselves in the rain-swollen Tamagawa Canal.
You would have to drown, jumping from the Tōjinbō cliffs.
On the whole they are less than impressive. Too similar to the Jurassic coast back home. The Oregon coast, that’s truly beautiful- flat panes of sand stretched out to sea from mile-high black cliffs.
The waves at the Rosuku Rocks are enough to arrest me for a moment. They rage, pushed by an inshore breeze, fulfilling the tourist guide’s promise.

Half way to the Sandan rocks (another map tells me so). Time to sit down.
Back at the bus depot I treated myself to a thousand yen bento. I get it out of my backpack and sit with my legs crossed, facing the ocean. The grass here is dead or dying, also disappointing to me.
On the bus ride over I read No Longer Human. Here I watch the waves.
Lunch is Sushizume, lit. ‘packed sushi’. I didn’t get to pick what went in, so there’s a chance that there could be meat that I would have to pick out. Itadakimasu!
Haven’t slept in a while. Three days maybe? Is it three? Three days?
I lay down in the sun’s yellow stare. People will come past but that’s not important. I manage to eat a single California roll.
There is the ocean, of course, the cliffs, dry yellow brown grass, myself sat on same, then the path, then more grass, then a line of trees. Between me and the trees is a large blue sign with no English translation.
Since the Tōjinbō Cliffs are not necessarily fatal I am reminded of Quantum Suicide. It’s an attempt to distinguish between the Copenhagen and Everett-Many-Worlds interpretations of quantum mechanics.
Say that somebody jumps from, say, the Tōjinbō Cliffs and they have exactly fifty-fifty chance of living or dying.
In the Copenhagen interpretation the predictable occurs. The subject lives or dies. In the Everett-Many-Worlds interpretation the universe splits into two: in one universe the subject lives, in another he dies.
(Men successfully commit suicide four times as often as women in most countries, so the use of the masculine pronoun can be justified)
Imagine trillions of identical suicide attempts from Tōjinbō cliffs. Half die in the first attempt, another half are saved by luck or Yukio Shige. Some return again and another half is wiped out, another half lives.
But somewhere in the multiverse is the you for whom the coin always comes up heads. Somewhere you will live and keep living, even if it’s for one more second than in the next universe over Maybe the coin comes up heads enough that you can outrun death, lasting long enough for a panacea to be found. Quantum Suicide leads inevitably to Quantum Immortality, maybe not in all worlds, but in some, for some people.
Hugh Everett III, originator of the Many-Worlds interpretation, died suddenly, aged fifty-one. Life­time of drinking and smoking heavily. The former passively caused the lung cancer that killed his wife, Nancy.
Their daughter, Elizabeth, lifelong sufferer of schizophrenia, took her own life, stating in her note that she was on her way to a parallel world to be with her father. Mark Everett, singer with the band Eels, you’ll probably know them, found his father dead and is the last surviving member of his family in his universe.
Dozing off now. Bento’s getting warm, probably. Doesn’t matter. It’s supposed to be served at room temperature.
I can’t sleep anywhere but my bed, and even then it’s not guaranteed. Instead of passing into unconsciousness the weight around my eyes lifts and there is a sensation like falling.
Bursts of it, this feeling. Like sudden acceleration then a smooth stop, always travelling downwards, the slow-drip of brain chemistry. Dopamine probably.
Open my eyes long enough to eat another California roll. It’s barely satisfying, but the filling, just cucumber, nori and nigiri, goes down easy and is guaranteed cruelty free.
I have enough spare cognition to squirt the soy sauce into a shallow reservoir and unwrap the chopsticks.
Wasabi I cannot do. Mustard is the same. Can’t even eat rarebit because the recipe requires a half teaspoon of Coleman’s. My national dish denied to me.
Andrew Boorde in his Fyrst Boke of the Introduction of Knowledge (1542): “I am a Welshman, I do love caws pobi- good roasted cheese.”
Would the class like to hear about Wales? I teach English-as-a-second-language, high school level, that’s how I’m supporting myself.
Wales would just confuse them. Class, your sensei is not British, as previously stated, but I trace my line from the Ordovices, the Demetae, the Silures and the Deceangli.
Let me read from the Mabinogion, the Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch and Llyfr Coch Hergest.
No, we’re not the Irish. Oh Celts, certainly. Listen, we have our own hundred letter Thunderword, just like off Finnegan’s Wake: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch.
(James Joyce, like Hugh Everett III, had a schizophrenic daughter. She was analyzed by Carl Jung. After reading Ulysses and pronouncing the elder Joyce similarly-phrenic Jung noted that she and her father were two people heading to the bottom of a river: he was diving and she was falling
Lacan, let’s see if I can remember, said that Joyce’s writing was the, what do you call it? Feminine supplementary jouissance or somesuch that kept him from actual psychosis.
Now there’s a lot of big words to keep us unhappy. Boring bloody Lacan.
Ah, she went out with Samuel Beckett. Lucia Joyce, the schizophrenic. Anna Livia Plurabelle Joyce her name was. Supposed to have been her father’s muse for the Wake, collaborator even.)
What else does your Sensei know, class? There’s the Battle of the Trees- Gwydion has every tree in the forest shaking off their Cicadas and following him into battle.
Oh! Dylan Thomas! John Cale too! Twin bursts of satori, almost enough to wake me.
Dylan Thomas now, not a suicide, death by alcohol poisoning. The Temperance movement was big in Wales, nineteenth century. New York city, Chelsea Hotel resident, like Cale.
Your Sensei wants to read a bit from a poem, relevant to our field trip here. It’s from Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night:
(Cale of course- permit your Sensei a digression here class- covered Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, as did Jeff Buckley, who died drowning as I recall. Minor fall and all that. Cale set Do Not Go Gentle to music. He’s still alive I think.)
(Oh yes, and John Berryman, only person present when Thomas offed, jumped from the Washington Avenue Bridge, a mere twenty-three meters clear from the water)
-Awake. That I can still sleep is a good sign.
I am woken by a man, Japanese, a meter from me. He has come better prepared than I- sturdy boots, backpack, carbon-fibre cane to walk with. Older than me but not old, shaved head, on the paunchy side.
He asks if I’m alright in English.
At some point I had repositioned myself so that I was sitting upright, back resting against the sign, my legs draped over the path.
I reply that I am alright, in Japanese.
I was very worried, he tells me, English again. People come here to die.
Do they not jump? is the best I can come up with, overly formal.
Yes, often. Some have done it in the woods with rope or poison.
There are Japanese websites that give instruction on making Hydrogen Cyanide from household items. It has been touted as a precursor to animo acids, and therefore all organic life. It’s better known as Zyklon B.
The Japanese man helps me up. After he does I bow neatly and dust myself off.
Stephen, I say.
Hiro, he says, bows.
Hiro Stephen, Stephen Hiro.
False names during transitory friendships are a habit I haven’t broken.
Are you here to look at the cliffs Stephen-san?
He’s changed to speaking in English.

Hai. I am also meeting someone.
A friend?
No. Somebody to write about. Perhaps you have heard of him. Yukio Shige.
There is still the wind and the cold. Still cicadas. Still porcelain explosions of surf against the rocks.
Yes. I have heard of him. He helps people who are worried.
That’s right. I am afraid that I may be late for our meeting.
Oh. Very sorry please. Do not let me keep you.
Quite alright. Before I go I wonder if you could tell me what is written on this sign. I’m afraid I cannot read Kanji.
Ah. It says ‘The consequences of jumping are fatal and tragic. Please seek the help of others. There is always hope’. Then there are numbers to call for different problems. Debt, family, when one of your family dies.
Thankyou Hiro-san. Good day to you.
Good day to you too Stephen-san
I turn and walk. The path is narrower here. Barely five meters from the cliff’s edge to the tree-line. Up ahead it widens and there are flocks of tourists in bright wind-breakers.
Past there is the Sandan rocks and my meeting with Yukio Shige. I have another cigarette right here. Like it’ll wake me up.
Feet moving fast behind me.
Stephen-san! May I take a moment more of your time?
Certainly Hiro-san.
He reaches into his backpack and pulls out a perfect ten-thousand yen melon. I had seen, and marvelled at, these in Shibuya department stores. They are intended as gifts for weddings and grad­uations.
Hiro bows and lowers his eyes.
Is it true that you intend to speak with Yukio-sama?
Yes, I tell him, I have an interview scheduled for forty-five minutes ago.
He holds the perfect melon out to me in its tasteful black lacquer box.
I also was headed to see him. I am sorry. I intended to give him this gift for Obon but to my shame I do not feel that I can go. Please take this gift to him with the compliments of Matsubara Hiro. He will know who I am.
I take the perfect melon from him and tell him that I will make sure that Yukio Shige receives it.
Thankyou, he says, it is very important that I am able to thank him in the proper way.
I carry the thing with me, careful around it, as I walk the remaining two-hundred meters to the meeting point.
The Sandan rocks are beautiful. The basalt has formed an almost perfect cube attached to the land by a bridge of haphazard geometric forms.
The thin columns of andesite have formed what look like the pipes of a vast and strange church organ. An alien instrument of devotion.
Yukio Shige is there, on the spit of land that bleeds into the rocks. He’s a hundred meters off. It’s him. I’ve seen pictures.
I ready my voice recorder. I check the batteries are charged. They’re charged. Got a pen and paper. Can’t do shorthand.
Bored and tired and exiled, I walk the last hundred meters.
I could be back home, walking the coasts of Dorset, Devon, Camarthen, Norfolk, wherever. Instead, in this small facet of everything, this universe, I am here.
My legs still ache. My eyes are sore and the surrounding flesh blackening and dying. By their thousands the neurons in my head, the whole of everything, are flickering out like the streetlights just before dawn.
This isn’t important. None of this is about me.

YPJ in Syria

Anarchists vs. ISIS: The Revolution In Syria Nobody’s Talking About

The Middle East today is the last place anyone in mainstream western thought would think to look for progressive political thought, and even less to see those thoughts translated into action. Our image of the region is one of dictatorships, military juntas and theocracies built on the ruins of the former Ottoman Empire, or hollow states like Afghanistan, and increasingly Pakistan, where anything outside the capitol is like Mad Max. The idea of part of the region being not just free, but well on its way to utopian, isn’t one that you’re going to find on mainstream media.

But you’re not on the mainstream media right now, are you?

Along Syria’s borders with Turkey and Northern Iraq, lies a mainly Kurdish area with a population of 4.6 million where a huge social experiment is taking place at the centre of a crossfire between Syria’s dictatorship, ISIS’s collective insanity and Turkey’s ongoing hostility towards the idea of Kurdish autonomy, with the US and NATO looming large in the background. The Democratic Union Party (PYD) and Kurdish National Council (KNC) established in the region of Rojava a society that mixes fierce libertarianism (guns are everywhere and there are no taxes – none) and Occupy-friendly anarchist thought with a healthy dose of feminism. While most Kurdish groups, especially those the US is friendly with, would some day like to establish a Kurdish state, in Rojava they have leap-frogged over the idea of the nation state into a more advanced system that they call Democratic Confederalism.

Read More at CVLTNATION

Voices - London

Review: Voices – London

The main problem with London, the album, is the lack of London, the place. Ostensibly a concept album, Voices squander the opportunity to say something meaningful about a fascinating, difficult city or to draw musical inspiration from the sounds it has been making from the Clash through to Burial. The misogynistic streak in the lyrics doesn’t help either.

As a concept album about infidelity and artifice, London is too muddled to really satisfy. It’s a common enough trick: if you’re not confident enough in your prose then throw in ambiguity. Unreliable narrators! Multiple viewpoints! Pseudo-intellectual types eat. That. Shit. Up. Never mind that the story amounts to ‘a girl fucks somebody who isn’t the narrator because she’s empty inside (and like a total slut) and not because he’s a self-important emo-sogynist douche.’

Musically it’s a little better. It has changed little from the ornate, gothic blackened-death metal of Voices’ previous incarnation, Akercocke, except for the increased prominence of ambient excursions. Vocalist Peter Benjamin is hugely versatile, a crooner, screamer and roaring beast all at once. That said, you’ll want to be somewhere else during the sub-Rorschach from Watchmen monologues on how ugly the city is.

Every single metal review site on the planet has given this album 10/10.

Marilyn Manson

Review: Marilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor

With the title referencing a David Foster Wallace book about boredom (The Pale King) and David Bowie’s ill-advised 1976 persona and character known as the Thin White Duke, we know Marilyn Manson isn’t fucking around on his ninth studio album. Thankfully The Pale Emperor sees Manson concentrating on the music first and foremost (alas, no more Shia LeBeouf), and thus producing a confident, mature rock record.

After a five-album string of duds following 1998’s Mechanical Animals, it’s also one of his better records, largely because he’s back to channeling Bowie. On opening track “Killing Strangers” he does so over an industrial stomp, though it would have twice the impact at half its length. Lead single “Deep Six” opens with some beautiful electronic noise before settling into industrial-metal, but it’s on ”The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles” that the influence of one David Robert Jones is turned up the highest, resulting in an album highlight. Manson has always been about playing games and wearing masks, and his best moments come when he’s wearing Bowie (a.k.a. Jones) like a second skin.

This won’t be Manson’s second chance at commercial success or a bold move into new territory. This isn’t his Kid A (Radiohead’s fourth studio album from 2000) or Low (David Bowie, circa 1977). For fans and the man himself it is a turning point where things start getting better.

Screaming Females

Everything New Under the Sun: Screaming Females

Imagine it’s 1988 and somebody puts a copy of Fugazi’s EP Margin Walker in your hands. Hell, imagine it’s 1967 and you get a record with a livid yellow banana on the cover that barely includes the album’s name, The Velvet Underground and Nico. You’d know from the first spin that by all rights, the band should be huge. As the years passed you’d see them continuing to toil away at the edges of popular culture, avoiding the easy ways to make a quick buck. They aren’t an institution, but somehow they are the kind of band that eventually is offered ridiculous sums of money to re-form and they turn it down, being more interested in letting the music remain a motive force.

There are a lot of people who have picked up one of the six Screaming Females albums released over the last nine years and had that moment, or who have seen one of their energetic live show, including high profile sets at Calgary’s own Sled Island. They are, according to Stereogum.com and plenty of others, “one of the best rock bands on the face of the earth.” Their new record, Rose Mountain, is the perfect jumping-on point for new listeners.

Read More at Beatroute

Santa Muerte

Prayer of the Mother of Tears: Santa Muerte in America

Across Mexico, and increasingly the U.S, the poor, the down-trodden and the outcasts have been turning to a robed, scythe-bearing skeleton – a personification of death fond of cigars and tequila, able to work miracles, but always for a steep price.

Santa Muerte, Saint Death, emerged in the nineteenth century as a syncretism of Catholic and pre-Columbian beliefs. An exact date, or even a rough approximation, is impossible to come by – the saint’s worshipers meet in secret, in back-room shrines, and only in the last decade have ‘official’ places of worship opened their doors. It is possible that the cult began in Mexico’s southern provinces, where native identity is stronger, but nobody can be sure. A female skeleton who guards the underworld appears in Aztec beliefs as Mictecacihuatl, who, along with her husband Mictlantecuhtli, rules over Mictlan, the abode of the dead. Dead souls had to survive nine years of torment before they could pass into Mictlan, but offering to the Lord and Lady of the underworld helped, a tradition that survives into the present as the Day of the Dead.

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Cro Mags

Hardcore crossover trailblazers Cro-Mags still living, breathing and fighting

CALGARY — New York in the ‘70s and ‘80s, pre-Giuliani, pre-The Disney Store opening in Times Square, is easy to mythologize. It’s a city where Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle can wish for a rain to wipe the scum off the streets as easily as it is for Woody Allen to worry in Annie Hall (1977) that “the rest of the country looks down upon New York like we’re left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers.” The skinhead subculture can be composed of devotees of black ska and reggae, or it can be neo-Nazis. Hardcore bands can be muscle-bound, martial arts practicing, straightedge vegan Hare Krishnas.

The latter adjectives, and probably a few more, apply to John ‘Bloodclot’ Joseph McGowan and the legendary hardcore outfit he fronted. Like the city that spawned them, the Cro-Mags are marked by a overabundance of stuff: over 20 musicians that could be called members, whole albums that the current line-up disavows (2000’s Revenge has nothing to do with the band as it stands), a knife attack, songs written by former members picked up and reworked by current members, dozens of aligned and associated acts. It all devolves into round after round of he-said-he-said stretching back to when those involved were children.

Read More at Beatroute.ca