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Illumination Ritual: CD/LP
Over the more than fifteen year career of The Appleseed Cast, the lineup has turned over more than a few times, but singer and guitarist Christopher Crisci has remained. His voice and an atmospheric, indie rock guitar sound is what has made The Appleseed Cast’s sound consistent in spite of the changes. Illumination Ritual, the band’s eighth full-length album, is ten songs that come in at forty-four minutes. It’s certainly different than their last full-length, Sagarmatha, and the one preceding it, Peregrine. In some ways, it is more reminiscent of the band’s second LP, Mare Vitalis, especially as it relates to the drum work. The style of Nathan Wilder is reminiscent of Josh Baruth (the drummer on Mare Vitalis) in its complexity and rhythmic structure. It really gives Illumination Ritual some life and energy for a style that might otherwise be moodier. That’s not to say that there’s not some good emotion on here, but it’s more reserved, not like the band was on their earliest albums. Still, there are some great moments, such as the way the guitar and vocals combine on “Cathedral Rings” and the vocals and drums work together on “30 Degrees 3am.” I can’t say this is the band’s best work, as the majority of the songs don’t stand out like the two just mentioned. However, Illumination Ritual certainly isn’t the band’s worst. It’s got a pleasant feel and brings back reminders of what might be the band’s finest work, Mare Vitalis. It’s safe to say this is an album for fans, but not necessarily the best place for someone to begin to get into the band. –Bryan Static (Graveface)

My Weapon: CD
Female pop in the vein of Manda And The Marbles, but with a bit more edge. They throw out tons of hooks, but I’m just not biting. –megan (Hair Ball 8)

Uhhh Sort of: CD
There are bands that are so bad that they’re good. That’s Sockeye for me. I think they’re fucking terrible. I hated them for years. But, even though (or possibly because) they’re so awful, I think they’re awesome. I highly doubt Applied Communications will ever get there, and I bet that’s not even what they’re trying for. They’re more in the vein of sucking so much that they go from bad to good to just plain suck again. –megan (Discos Mariscos)

Radio Waves: 2XCD
Two “live” recordings from two different radio programs featuring this surf instrumental group. The sound quality performances are great, although it’s very hard to acclimate to how slow their versions of “Walk Don’t Run,” “Pipeline,” and “Baja” are after nearly twenty years of hearing strictly the JFA versions, and the cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was more than a little cheesy. Still, not a bad listen for fans of surf. –jimmy (BMG, which means it’s available at the record store in the mall, next door to Hot Topic)

Stoked on You: CD
Californians, you can no longer survive by your insistent love of surf rock. We, the citizens of the world, a good majority of which do not have readily accessible beaches for most of the year, are hereby calling you to just stop. This lackadaisical, dismissive indifference to the world at large, codified by the slacker rock that Burger Records has taken as their cultural duty to commit to physical media, will not fly. I’m being a bit of a dick here, I’ve just heard too many of these surf-rock-by-way-of-dream-pop albums and none of them stick at all. There are moments where this record breaks through the dreamy gaze and ferociously states its intentions, but those moments are few. Perhaps it is my inner old man speaking, but if you use “Sk8” in a song title and it doesn’t seem like an obvious joke, just don’t. I can’t handle that kind of stress in my life anymore. Grade: C+. –Bryan Static (Burger, burgerrecords.org)

Self-titled: CD
There is so much going on here, but not in a way that would turn you off. No. Let me start over. The Aquarium consists of two people: one playing drums and one playing keyboards and singing. That’s it. But the sound that jumps out of the speakers is so full you’d call me a liar in ten seconds flat. This album reminds me a bit of ‘70s acid-influenced synthpop (as opposed to ‘80s coke-influenced synthpop), and at the same time the music is refreshingly not a rehash. So many influences can be heard throughout the disc like The Cure, The Gossip, Weezer, and Juliana Hatfield, to name a few. Really great stuff. Apparently when they play live they also run random movie clips too, and that kind of stuff is always a plus. Now, if I were making a movie…track one would be the soundtrack to the undercover cops meeting at the strip club to discuss the current situation and to deliberate where to go next. You bet I would. –mrz (Dischord)

“She Does Those Things to Me” b/w “Don’t Need Your Love”: 7”
This is two solid slabs of snotty ‘60s-esque punk. Both songs would be right at home on Back from the Grave comps. Snotty, echo-laden vocals backed up with overdriven guitars. Both songs are up-tempo and have catchy-as-hell choruses. A must have band-to-look-out-for if you’re into it.  –Billups Allen (Speakertree, speakertreerecords.blogspot.com)

“Make It Mine” b/w “Movin’ On”: 7”
“Make It Mine” is a catchy cave stomper from this Richmond band putting out solid singles at a furious rate. “Movin’ On” follows suit. Beautifully overdriven guitars, thee party beat, and infectious choruses. They’re a band to watch out for if you’re a Back from the Grave fanatic.  –Billups Allen (Steady Sounds)

Self-titled: LP
Do the math: LP=more of what you love. This is a full-length from a Richmond band whose singles have been full-on bankers for value if you’re into the ratchety end of the ‘60s punk revival bands. Solid rock’n’roll with overdriven guitars, snotty attitude, Bo Diddley beats, and choruses with excellent back ups. Too many bands nowadays seem to think this sort of thing is easy to do. Those Thee types only walking the walk will falter at some point. This band is the full package. Never has something so unoriginal sounded so fresh. –Billups Allen (Windian, windianrecords.com)

“Cut Me Down” b/w “Sick and Tired”: 7”
The Ar-Kaics has been tearing it up with the singles lately. This recent one is a classy offering of one jangly speed and one slower song. It ups the ante because they pull it off well. Too many bands play because it seems easy to mimic Lux Interior, but it isn’t. Great band with essential singles.  –Billups Allen (Hidden Volume)

Yahweh or the Highway: CD
Noisy, exhaustive, caustic, and a sure way to piss off the neighbors, if it doesn’t piss off the listener first. Think Flipper, Suicide, Men’s Recovery Project; disjointed jangles that break off like knife points in a stiff corpse of songs; guitars that come like meteor showers and clang like empty cans or squeal like raped cats. It takes a special type of listener. When I’m so angry I can’t think, this stuff works very well. When I’m in traffic and can’t afford my mellow to be harshed, it’s a bad, bad idea to put on. The lyrics are a hoot, though, and are pretty much all about sex. (“Sometimes I just gotta jerk off/ my nuts are a pressure cooker” and “I told her I don’t like the way her pussy tastes and she said ‘sush’ as she sat on my face” are two random samples.) The album constantly made me grit my teeth and get my jaw all sore. Not for everybody. As a matter of fact, not for a lot of people, but if you like your music not necessarily pissed off, but will make you a fucking angry hornet, here you go. Have to give ‘em points for not being emo. –todd (Skin Graft)

The Last Romance: CD
Although Arab Strap may seem like a relative newcomer to many, this Scottish duo has actually been around for ten years. In fact, they were helping out Songs:Ohia on their Axxess and Ace album that came out back in 1999, so they’ve definitely been around the block a few times. Despite opening up for Bright Eyes last year and starting to achieve the early stages of what some might call “indie fame,” much of this doesn’t tread any new ground for the indie rock scene. It seems much like most other indie sounds with Scottish vocals attached. And while those Scottish vocals can be endearing, they do take a while to get used to for those of us used to hearing American or even British vocals. Some of the songs are acoustic, others seem more traditional lighter indie rock fare, but nothing seems too dangerous and the whole time I can’t help but think of the 1990s Scottish alternative band Whipping Boy that no one but my friend Jason or I seem to remember. –kurt (Transdreamer)

Ikara: CD
What starts off with sappy minimal piano practice progresses into sappy sleepy interminable dance music that sounds like Depeche Mode dying of chronic diarrhea. I looked at Scene Police’s website and it seems like they got some great shit; I hope I never find out why the fuck they put this out. –Cuss Baxter (Scene Police)

This Gent's a Scoundrel: CD
Florida band's three-song sampler from an upcoming full-length. Apparently, the band is kaput after a brutal fall tour. Too bad. I dug the stuff I got on this taster. "Who Gave Ooner the Dope?" features some cool guitar lines that chug along like a freshman at his first kegger. "Lee's Dead on Alt. 19" was also quite pleasing, and usually I don't like these scream-at-full-volume vocals; this was an exception. The EP takes a complete 180 with "Admission to a Blowbird": acoustic guitar with a cello and singing like Gordon Gano on vocals. For some reason it reminds me of the Replacements' first B-side that Westerberg did solo. I'm sure the whole CD delivers, so buy it before it dissolves itself out of print. –koepenick (ADD)

The “Dante” EP: CDEP

It doesn’t look that good, but by god it’s punchier than a waxed weasel! Five tracks of high-energy '77-via-now head-bobbing delight in the realm of Naked Raygun getting the Rip Off treatment. Too bad it’s so fuckin’ short.

–Cuss Baxter (www.arcadeinferno.com)

Tonight, St. Pete Burns: CD
When this came in, I thought it was a DVD since it was in a DVD case. I think some grindcore band did the same thing a couple of years ago, and when somebody tried to convince me that it was a brilliant idea, I responded by pointing and laughing. So this isn’t a DVD, it’s a regular old CD. Both bands are treading on the same ground as the Jack Palance Band and American Steel, and while I wouldn’t exactly call that “hallowed ground,” it’s definitely not a bad thing in my book. And I’ve said this about fifteen times already, but hand-screened covers are pretty cool.  –Josh (Network of Friends)

Uroboros: CD
There’s something about these guys that reminds me of White Zombie without all the horror schlock, but their heavy-duty hippie sludge don’t do a thing for me. –jimmy (www.4wallsrecords.com)

Canadian Horse: LP
Think of Agathocles and Doom mixed with Spazz. Mincecore madness that points out the absurd in “the scene”; dogs at shows, porn-grind, crusties, as well as things like monkeys and wolves. It’s pretty obvious from the cover art of someone on a horse with a saxophone where this band is coming from (“Mincecore Fabio”!?). Multi vocal growls and grunts over a din of guitar and choppy drumming. You know if this is your thing or not. Good for a listen or two. –Matt Average (To Live A Lie, tolivealie.com)

Derdang Derdang: CD
Sounds like the desire to be recorded at Toe Rag Studios crossed with the desire to make the first PiL album, but not to the point of actually recording it at Toe Rag Studios nor including a “Fodderstompf” analogue. Initial repulsion followed by moderate interest and above average workplace use. I think if i was watching this band and standing next to Billy Childish, I would peek to see if he clapped before i followed suit. BEST SONG: “Jab Jab” BEST SONG TITLE: “Dart For My Sweetheart” FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: First line of “Cherry Lips”: Lovely finger tips upon my lips, I don’t think I’ll get get get it.” First line of “How I Sang Dang”: Healthy finger tips upon my lips, I don’t think I can get over it.” OOO-kay… –norb (Domino)

Self-titled: 7”
Please keep in mind that this review is being filtered through the drunken near-epiphany-like experience I had seeing Arctic Flowers at Chaos In Tejas back in May. Sure, I could barely stand but I was snared and dragged in. I honestly didn’t see how this record could possibly live up to that moment. It does... and then some. As soon as the needle hit the groove, I was mesmerized. The rhythm section locks you into the song and the guitar rips you apart. The vocals begin and the last piece falls into place. The best thing about the three songs here is the true sense of desperation, anger, fear, and depression that comes across without resorting to screaming. Vocalist Alex has a beautiful voice and even when it seems like she’s right on the edge, she still keeps it together. More records please (and come play somewhere near me)! –ty (myspace.com/arcticflowerspdx)

Reveries: LP
I’m a bit slow at times. My mind gets lost with all the information out there. Heard about this band from Portland and the great reviews they were receiving. I put it on my mental list and filed it away. A 7” came out. Forgot to buy it. They came through town and I missed the show. A split came out afterwards and forgot to buy that. When I saw a pre-sale for a new full length, I sent my money before I got sidetracked. Luckily, I acted quickly. The LP sold out quickly. A repress is in the works, due to its demand. So my thoughts about the album? Fantastic! I am a big nerd for female-fronted bands. So brownie point number one. I’m on a big post punk kick lately. They fill that and more by incorporating anarcho punk and solid rocking rhythms that have punk energy. It’s like taking the solid punk foundation of Signal Lost and adding a more brooding sound that Witch Hunt had on their last record. The guitar work is immaculate; creating textures and emotions that a band like the Red Dons use to maximum advantage. The eight songs that are provided are well crafted and feel like they went through the maturity process before being released. I hope this band doesn’t implode too soon before I can experience more. For my first introduction, like heroin, I want more. –don (Inimical)

Procession: 12” EP
I can’t be the only one who wishes that funeral songs were more catchy and less mopey. Arctic Flowers agrees. They play up early ‘80s goth to the hilt: quasi-Egyptian symbology? Check. (No ankh, but the “Eye of Horus” eyeball.) Ruins and/or druids and/or crop-circley imagery? Check. At least a couple of early Siouxie, Bauhaus, Super Heroines, and/or 45 Grave records in heavy rotation? Check. We’re in the midst of a slew of music revivals and jokes I haven’t used in decades are coming back to me: What’s worse than someone throwing up into your mouth? A dead person throwing up into your ears. Kidding aside—I listened to this type of stuff a lot growing up because that’s how the punk/goth detente was established in the mid- to late-‘80s when punk was sucking wind. The good news is that Arctic Flowers fall on the Christian Death/actual good punk band playing somber music side of the equation. They match the ooky-spooky with pumping blood and actual guitars and drums, not Casios keyboards overladen with effects. Nice. –todd (Self-released, distro’d by Feral Ward)

Weaver: LP
Portland’s Arctic Flowers unveil their second full length of that unmistakable northwest punk style also heralded by compatriots Criminal Code and Red Dons. A potent concoction of the Observers’ sharpest edges and the post-punk flag waving of Flesh World mixes in nicely with some fiercer numbers such as the rager “Anamnesis.” Something tells me that Arctic Flowers’ songwriting prowess has yet to reach its zenith and that the well of talent that they’ve tapped won’t be running dry anytime soon. Absolutely mandatory.  –Juan Espinosa (Deranged)

Remix: LP
One of those bands I’ve heard much ballyhoo about but haven’t actually heard. Three tunes showcase a deft ability to mix punk and death rock influences, which is often harder than it would seem at first blush. Songs are punchy, full of drive, and yet danceable. This latter trait explains the several remixes, predominantly of the opening track, “Technicolor Haze,” that make up the remainder of wax time here, each of which takes the track(s) in new directions. Daryl expressed some concern when I plucked this from the pile, saying they were a good band but that maybe a remix record might not be the best place to start my acquaintance with them. He was right, but I don’t think for the reason he might’ve thought—the remixes don’t bother at all, but I do wish there were more tunes on here, ‘cause this is quite good.  –Jimmy Alvarado (Deranged)

Split: 7”
This is a repress of a 7” that came out in 2011. Portland’s Arctic Flowers offer one tune in their anarcho punk-influenced melodic fare, while Spectres bring a more synth-filled offering, heavy and seemingly influenced by ‘80s U.K. post-punk. Arctic Flowers are the standout here with Spectres being an enjoyable bonus from a band I had not yet heard of. If you missed out on this previously then, you now have another chance. –Mark Twistworthy (Man In Decline, manindeclinerecords.com)

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