AJ’s Recommended Minnesota Listening 2017.5
I will always snoop around the local scene for new sounds before venturing into any main, or tributary, streams. I prefer keeping things close to the chest where my heart may absorb them more efficiently. For example, we have a vital gene pool for heavy music here in the North. I would much rather hear new music from Scaphe or False before the latest Guitar Center-sponsored tripe molests my ears over the radio.
Luckily, Minneapolis and St. Paul have plenty of interesting, intriguing, and down-right rockin’ offerings from beneath the depths of the vanguard. Forget the First or Second cities, here are some of my Twin Cities favorites so far this year:
1. The Cult of Lip – Your Feedback (May, 2017)
Shoegaze pop done right. While the rest of the world bangs their heads to the synth-mope that’s comfortably fallen over them like acid snow, this Minneapolis three-piece punches holes in the darkness with guitars to let a kaleidoscope of feels shine through. Fans of the Cure, My Bloody Valentine, and Flesh Eaters will find plenty in their recent EP, Your Feedback (Rare Plant, 2017), to help get them through the rough and sunny summer months. Personally, I’m a huge fan of guitarist Ronnie Lee’s big, direct tone, which I feel is often sorely missing today in a style that was initially built around the goddamn guitar. So – thanks, Ronnie.
2. Cut Hairs – All Feels Lost (February, 2017)
In a scene known for its punk, funk, noise, and folk, it’s incredibly refreshing to come to find that rock-and-roll still has its fair share of true believers.
Center-piece Joe Marxen brings the goods to a small collection of songs that have obviously been loved and workshopped for quite some time before being brought to the studio with a little help from his friends, Bob Bucko, Jr. and the Eagle Family Players. With a vulnerable yet sardonic voice, Marxen sings about love, loss, and struggle (both personal and abroad) in an age of unreason, pulling all the right punches while still getting in a few good shots to the chest and gut. The rock-and-roll formula is potent throughout the self-released All Feels Lost with tuneful guitar leads and steady blithe drums carrying each tune to realization. Fans of Wilco, Dinosaur Jr., and Ryan Adams will be in slow-roasted hog heaven.
More or less a glorified demo, I hope we’ll get to see these songs on stage in their natural habitat when Marxen’s latest project the Butter Boys, featuring David Garcia on drums and Katie Drahos on vocals and synthesizer, begin playing out and about on a regular basis. Until then, enjoy the Cheap Trick drums and Big Star chorus of “Boy In Love”. I sure know I do.
3. Strange – II (March, 2017)
Fast, loud and evil, Strange put the ‘power’ in power duo; but don’t make any uneducated guesses as to their output. Fans of the White Stripes or Black Keys will find nothing ‘blue’ or ‘folksy’ herein, and that’s a very good thing.
Guitarist Adam Rucinski and drummer Luke Freidrich draw from Black Cobra, the Melvins, and Queens of the Stone Age to make effected metal worthy of Satan’s nephew’s bar mitzvah. Their second self-released offering, II, is mean, (again) loud, and best of all it’ll make you bang your head until your ears stop bleeding.
Although they can’t remember how long they’ve been a functional unit, Strange can be seen infrequently deafening audiences throughout town. Make yourself useful one of these days and catch them live, whydon’tcha?
4. Transitional Species – Rise of the Damn Dirty Apes (June, 2017)
After living exclusively on the internet for a few years, Transitional Species’s noise opera Rise of the Damn Dirty Apes (mb004, 2017) finally sees a physical release this year via Mouth Breather recordings.
Contained in a provocatively designed CD packaging courtesy of local Renaissance man Paul Metzger, Rise of the Damn Dirty Apes isn’t so much a cautionary tale as it is an aural history told in spell-binding effect by project mastermind Kevin Cosgrove. If our galaxy were to ever dictate its life story, it would probably sound something like this.
Catch Transitional Species just about every third Monday at the Kitty Cat Klub for the continuing curated Tourniquet Noise Series, and make sure to order yourself a copy of Rise of the Damn Dirty Apes in time for the impending solstice.
5. Blackthorne – EP 002 (March, 2017)
Most touring grind or hardcore bands worth their salt usually don’t come this far north when promoting their wares, so to have a totally deft outfit of locals making some seriously fast, hard, nasty shit warms my black heart.
Former members of lots of Twin Cities bands formed Blackthorne a few years ago to be “fast, campy, and have fun”. While their fare of camp is more Crystal Lake than North Star, Blackthorne manage to have tons of fun, and their latest cassette release is indelible proof.
Fueled by irritation, disenfranchisement, and lots of feedback, EP 002 snatches you by the shirt immediately and only needs five minutes to kick your ass. Blackthorne works in short bursts, with most shows never cracking fifteen minutes, but they aren’t embarrassed about it or anything. And you shouldn’t be, either.
6. Comets ov Cupid – “Scorpius” (July, 2017)
In preparation of a long-awaited physical release, North Dakota transplant Jason Kesselring offers up another single self-produced six-string divination.
I have to admit outright that Jason is probably my favorite active guitarist in the Twin Cities at moment, and that fact is going to color my opinion, inside, outside, and inbetween all the lines. Nobody else around towns takes the guitar into the territories he does, not quite; and when he’s not slinging celestial lightning bolts with Thunderbolt Pagoda, Kesselring builds and destroys worlds with his main solo gig as Comets ov Cupid.
Fed by King Crimson, Neu!, and the Hubble Telescope, “Scorpius” rides a slide guitar glides through a spacial swara of feedback, never quite beginning or ending. Kesselring has a pronounced talent for building atmosphere, and his latest blueprint is already looking strong and sultry. I’m to understand a full-band release is quietly under construction at moment. So until you and I can get our grubby earthen paws on that piece of stardust, “Scorpius” and its seven-month-separated sibling “Unicursal Hexagram” will have to do for now.
7. Livid – Beneath This Shroud, The Earth Erodes (July, 2017)
Doom metal can be a tricky genre to build a legacy upon. Black Sabbath and St. Vitus did it because…well…
But contemporary heshers like Windhand, Pallbearer, and Hooded Menace have shown that slow and heavy can still win the race.
Luckily for the Twin Cities, we have the winningest horse in the whole damn pony show. Livid are slow, heavy, and fucking miserable. Too many words would get in the way, so I’m just going to let Livid let those sweeter than Satan guitar tones do the talking. Beneath This Shroud, The Earth Erodes (Prosthetic Records, 2017) comes out today, so you’d better make sure to grab a limited release vinyl copy while you still can.
And I hope you have about an entire hour free to take in the whole thing; because posting any one track from this album would be like saying, “Would you like a homicidal brontosaurus as an obedient pet? Great – here’s a VHS copy of Jurassic Park.”
Make sure to get to Reverie Cafe+Bar Wednesday, July 26th, for Livid’s official LP release event. Fellow bellowers Aziza will be joining in the festivities with their new EP also seeing release, and Blackthorne will also also be there to say ‘hi’. Everything starts at 9:00 PM and there’s a $5-$10 admission fee that goes towards North Country Food Alliance. Space is limited, so get there while the getting’s good.
Adam Johnson lives in Minneapolis with his wife, cats, and guitars.