Peter Aaron/Brian Chase Duo
After being acquainted as performers in Kid Millions’ percussion juggernaut Man Forever, guitarist Peter Aaron—best known as the front man of the raw punk-blues band Chrome Cranks—and drummer Brian Chase of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs discovered a chemistry together when duetting at the close of a group improvisational show at the Brooklyn space Secret Project Robot. And by “chemistry,” this writer isn’t referring to a comfortable, complacent affinity but instead a violent and explosive chemical reaction.
The blistering 9-track mini-album Purges from the Peter Aaron / Brian Chase duo on the Public Eyesore label alternates between five numbered “Purge” tracks and specifically named pieces from completely improvised sessions recorded in 2013. These “Purge” interludes are nothing like traditional interludes, employing a perverse idea of palate-cleansing—it’s like eating a bit of wasabi instead of sliced ginger between sushi samples.
For example, after the complicated number “Rolling,” with multi-level, face-melting noise with piercing high-frequency shards, ghostly drones and a woozy atmosphere, “Purge 2” emerges with its veil of effects lifted but with a flurry of irregular taps and hi-hat-pedal stomps among scrambling guitar notes.
“Space” offers a growing tidal wave, resembling a complex, hulking and unstoppable maelstrom that lumbers along, burying Chase’s snare drum rolls; perhaps resembling an awe-inspiring UFO takeoff, “Delay” envelopes its surroundings and offers a primitive pounding that increasingly becomes more frantic. The sonic equivalent of a wayward, stained pillow shot in the form of “Purge 4” follows with chaos and demented ride-cymbal tapping and ends with squeals and skeleton-dance snare drum hits.
Free improv fans who are searching for something ferocious or noise-rock fans who are open to something that isn’t rock at all may very well react positively to and tightly bond with the intense synthesis captured on Purges.
The compilation Continental Drift has a title that perhaps refers to the fact that an ocean sits between its bands and also the two labels that co-released it: Slumberland Records in California and Fortuna POP! in London, which unfortunately recently announced that it is ending its twenty-year run. Both labels share an underground pop/rock aethestic—raised on C86, Sarah Records and the Jesus and Mary Chain—and have partially overlapping rosters, sharing acts like The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Joanna Gruesome.
Continental Drift manages to hark back to the ‘90s heyday of indie-pop without being a flimsy throwback; the music’s character comes mostly from the delivery and songs themselves, not the production and recording styles, and therefore, it—like the most enduring ‘90s indie-pop—will likely age gracefully. With eight songs from four bands, it could also be seen as four 7-inch vinyl singles but sequenced in a mixed-up order, which is a deal, since the days of $3 singles have long since passed. Pardon this writer as he emits a wistful sigh.
Mercury Girls from Philadelphia bring to mind the tight, spirited pop-punk of Tiger Trap, with surgically precise, on-point drumming and heart-meltingly pretty vocals on a killer pair of tracks, “Beverly” and “Holly,” the album’s opener.
Scotland’s The Spook School’s first offering, “Sometimes I Hide from Everybody,” has a fey fake-out intro before erupting with urgent, punk energy and a wall of sound; its thematic introversion belies the confidence and vigor of its delivery, and the group’s second track, “Gone Home,” has a strum-happy, infectious momentum.
The East London group Tigercats eases into a full, hearty sound with hints of fluid African soukous guitar lines on “Sidney St,” and the meaty chords and melodic punk influences of “Rent Control” provide a simple yet effective pleasure.
The high point of the compilation is “Horror Movie” from the Baltimore band Wildhoney, which literally made this writer tingle, throwing a grappling hook into his pleasure center and transmitting its bouncy, driving goodness; it’s not-quite-shoegaze guitar chords with softened edges and singsongy keyboard and vocal counterpoint are irresistible.