It’s easy to talk about Orations through the lens of “modern band does classic genre music.” Hell, that was my main talking point when I wrote about their previous EP. It’s really not a point worth revisiting because there is more going on. Orations are easily one of the strongest modern voices in this kind of music.
All that said, what’s new? Wych Elm is Orations honing their sound even further. The reverb is still there. The melodies are still top notch. Jess Collins still has one of the best goddamn voices. Wych Elm stands out by what makes it different from past releases. They still effortless emphasize the punk part of post-punk, but not so strongly as on the self titled EP. It’s still very “goth” sounding, but has more of a college rock type jangle when compared to to the more Siouxsie And The Banshees / The Cure vibe on Incantations.
Wych Elm is absolutely everything a first full length should be. It feels like a declaration of intent. Like a mission statement. It’s documentation of a band that knows exactly what they are and exactly where they’re going.
Custom Made Music
Swiss Dark Nights
I can’t make heads or tails of post-genres sometimes. It gets especially troublesome when talking about a band like Cloak Of Organs. They could comfortably be listed under whatever post- genre tag you could rattle off. Post-metal, post-hardcore, post-punk, post-whatever.
Fuck it. Cloak Of Organs is a band that is not beholden to a specific scene or genre. They make music that is very melodic and airy in some places, but also very heavy in others. They’re self titled EP is the kind of record that would be at home in a metal collection as much as a shoegaze collection. It is an example of crafting atmosphere and texture.
The music is slow and brooding, and the vocals hit all the right “ethereal” hallmarks. This record sounds great in all aspects, musically and vocally. But, y’know, of course it does. This band is made up of Denver music veterans, and the combined experience means great things. The Nervous, Wovenhand, Planes Mistaken for Stars, and Slim Cessna’s Auto Club are all represented.
This is the perfect kind of record for fall. The music and the lyrical content both skew towards more dark topics. There are themes of body horror. There are themes of desolation. It’s not necessarily a “fun” record, but it sure is a great one. It’s definitely a great fall release.
Cloak Of Organs
Bandcamp / Buy It
My favorite punk rock records are the ones that sound like everyone in the band just said “fuck it” and just went as hard as they could regardless of the consequences. Punk rock is built on that energy. A lot of bands who try that end up playing fast, sloppy, amateur hour type shit. They mistake energy for speed. Good punk rock isn’t just stuff that is loud and fast. Good punk rock is something you can feel.
Slow Bloom is a band full of energy and heart. They play post-hardcore, but are still very aware of their punk rock roots. The songs sound gritty and dirty. It’s super welcome in a world where most punk rock bands have rounded of the jagged edges. They are also deceptively melodic and catchy. Underneath the screaming and distortion on “Phantom Tantrum” is a really great early 90s alternative rock song. “Veriforms” and “Deep Space” are what I think At The Drive-In would sound like if they weren’t too pompous and cool to be punk.
I don’t want to wax philosophically about a punk rock record. It’s on Bandcamp, it’s on Spotify. You can find it. My notes when I listened to this EP started with the phrase “dope as fuck.” Let’s just leave it there.
I love hearing modern bands play classic genre music. Orations are a prime example of how good it can sound. What they’ve done on Incantation is an interesting bit of songwriting, and certainly not easy. They live in a middle ground of goth inspired post-punk/new wave and driving, mid-tempo punk rock. They never sound like just a punk rock band trying to fuck with post-punk and new wave, and that is what makes this whole thing work so well.
The four songs on Incantation seem to be split into two styles. “Curses” and “Strangely Safe” bookend the EP with a style that calls to mind the poppier side of Siouxsie And The Banshees or The Cure. Mostly thanks to that classic post-punk/new wave guitar tone. Great use of reverb and great melodics. Those songs have a gothy kind of sound, but never fall into the droney and brooding genre traps. The middle two songs, “Circus of Currents” and “Nosedive,” have a much more straight forward punk rock sound. They definitely match the tone of the other songs, but maybe don’t rely so much on the overall atmospherics as much.
The band is great at tying everything together. Jason Draper (bass) and Paul Morin (guitar) absolutely nail the kind of interplay needed to make this sound work. Steve Sojka (drums) is very versatile in his own right, switching styles depending on what the songs call for. A lot of band would sort of fuck up the post-punk to punk rock shift, but Orations have it covered. But, in my mind, the strongest selling point of the record has to be Jess Collins’ vocals. She has a very commanding voice. It’s strong enough to stand out on the more driving songs, but versatile enough to weave in and out of the more atmospheric one.
This is skilled band walking a very tight rope. They’re making music that borrows from a classic sound, but they’re adding enough life and energy to keep it from being mindless throwback bullshit. A lesser band might not be able to do it, and that alone makes this one worth a listen.
Sheets Of Tens Records / Buy It
Bandcamp / Buy It
Middle Part is pop and noise. They are where those two sensibilities intersect. It’s weird, it’s abrasive, and it’s not for everyone. It’s really fucking good though. Let’s not bullshit around with some long write up. Middle Part is making aggressive, lo-fi music. There is a lot of noise, a lot of yelling, and a whole lot of muscle. This two piece from Harrisonburg, VA isn’t holding anything back this EP. They have a drum and a bass, but are way more than the sum of their parts.
There are a number of things this band excels at, not the least of which is the ability to make a hard left turn out of nowhere. Songs like “Dip Dip” and “Like Before” pull you in with an almost dancey, post-punk sound. The former shifts back and forth between that and a killer hardcore/noise combination. It’s disjointed and jagged, but it works. The latter is probably the most accessible song on the record, but even it plays around with time changes and styles. It’s shift is almost a pop to dirge to pop thing.
“Fight Song” is all aggression. Musically, vocally, whatever. In fact, Judy Hong’s vocals are what makes this record work for me. They can range anywhere from melodic and halting (“Like Before”) to just fucking shredded (“Fight Song” and “Dip Dip”). The vocals work so well with the distorted bass and pounding drum. The production work from Tristan O’Shea, who is the other half of the band, absolutely nails the mood of this record too.
There isn’t a whole lot more that needs to be said. If you want a record that will keep you on your toes, this is absolutely it. Check it out.
Too Far Gone Records
Parachute For Gordo did a lot of things on Ten Metres Per Second Per Second that a lot of other bands of their ilk probably wouldn’t. Recorded live over just three hours, it is a record that has a very strong sense of urgency and power behind it. This is a band that, much like their labelmates in twothirtytwo, have carved out an interesting niche for themselves.
Parachutes For Gordo are, in the end, an art band. They also have a knack for making disjointed songwriting work. They primarily exist in the middle ground of post-punk and indie rock. They are a band that shifts everything within their songs. Tempos, styles, overall structure. Things can go anywhere at anytime. Ten Metres Per Second Per Second is a record built on experimentation.
This experimentation shows strongly on songs like “I Offered You A Small Dog In The Kitchen“ and “The Labrasaga – Part I: Labrador Deciever, Part II: LabraDoodlebug.” The former is one of the most straight forward songs on the record. It has an excellent rise/fall/rise dynamic to it. The latter is a song that, clocking in at around 16 minutes, shows exactly where this band succeeds. It is a song that is standard indie fare for the first half of it. At almost seven minutes in, goddamn, it gets heavy. It goes from a clean guitar that is kind of noodling about to a distorted riffing that is raw power. It then cycles back around.
While the loud/quiet/loud dynamic isn’t anything new, especially in indie and post-punk, Parachute for Gordo make it work. Ten Metres Per Second Per Second in energetic, raucous, and raw. It definitely stands out.
Parachute For Gordo
Rose Coloured Records
Skull Practitioners are a band that really show how pointless the genre splintering of music is. You could call them post-punk, psychedelic, garage rock, or straight up punk rock. Any designation you give them would work, but it wouldn’t be a fair representation of what’s going on. Their self titled cassette is very hard to classify. And, to a point, it feels like the classification would cheapen it.
Musically, this is a band who plays hard. There is a lot of muscle behind the guitar. The drums are fantastic. But, honestly, that might be the most cohesive thing on ST1. With the band having the influences they do, it makes the tape a touch disjointed. It fluctuates from arty noise to more traditional guitar rock. There might even be some New York no wave in there too? There is a lot going on.
The sheer amount of things happening is pretty clearly the point. Skull Practitioners seem to be taking a kitchen sink approach. They are throwing every influence in, and seeing what works. The good thing is that all the songs work. Maybe not as a single piece of music, but definitely as individual songs. But, still, a song like “Nelson D” doesn’t seem to belong on the same thing as “Another Sicko.” It doesn’t matter much though. ST1 is brooding, it’s distorted, and it’s just has a lot of bite to it. It’s definitely worth a listen. Even if it’s only to hear a band jump from a more garage rock sound to an almost James Chance type sound.
Skull Practitioners is a band made up of music veterans. Jason Victor, Alex Baker, and Ken Levine are definitely more than the sum of their parts. Nothing on here was done by accident, and nothing on here isn’t meant to be here. It’s a challenging listen, for sure. But, that said, I Skull Practitioners is a project that continues for more releases. I’d love to see what else they can do.
BandCamp / Buy It