Keiki - Living/Breathing (Live God, 2014)
Keiki's latest noise tape via Cincinnati's best outsider artist collective is a document of semi-improvised, brain-to-tape harsh noise that lives and breathes in a sort of stuck, liminal space made up of sweltering afternoons paralyzed inside, outside-looking-in observations of normal interactions that seem insane to you and those times when you want nothing more to bury yourself in a cloak of thick blackened noise. Living/Breathing provides the soundtrack for all your special moments. As a noise tape, one that is full of serrated metal-on-metal scrapings, these sounds of a computer vomiting up a full hard drive and the sound a building makes right before it collapses, Living/Breathing works very, very well. Beneath the surface there is a quivering, beating heart and a forlorn voice making its way out of the catacombs making Living/Breathing completely listenable. There is nothing assaultive on this tape, any ill-will is directed inwards and does not bash your face in. For example, tracks like "Always Wrong", which takes a strange 50's girl group meets Shankar Jaikishan bass-percussion line and marries it with melodic pulls of noise that corral and condense all of this harshness into a weirdly melodic line. This thick miasma of keys, contact mics and bass guitar is the kind of stuff that is crucial to sink into when you are at your worst. There is enough of a shimmering, golden edge that it offers an echo and a reminder that fall is around the corner and the god-awful humidity will subside for a season. Until then, sink in and live with it.
Public Housing - Public Housing (Torn Light, 2014)
As a Case Manager I spend a good deal of my time in Cincinnati's public housing or public housing adjacent areas. From my experience and conjecture, if public housing (the physical structures) had sentient souls and phalanges and were given guitars, drums, oscillators and a feral saxophone, their album, also called Public Housing, would sound note-for-note like this. Or Rich Homie Quan (whom I love). OMG. "Type of Way Public Housing remix". Get on it. Public Housing echoes a lot of the bleakness and despair, while none of the vibrancy and community, that our most benignly named prisons for the economically depressed seethe with. Dragging its staggeringly slow BPM through a thick slew of ravaged guitar solos and intentionally sick sounding wheeze of drilling, buzzing and whining electronics, Public Housing is a supremely weird take on an almost Doo-Wop approach to slow and crashing percussion with distinct penchant for the vulnerability and verse-chorus arrangements of a severely fucked version of the blues. This is gut-wrenching stuff. Sheer Hellish Masala of harsh noise, sludge and no-wave skronk filtered through busted equipment and malicious intent. It is terrifying and monolithic, towering and ever-buzzing, a place not be around when the sun goes down, just like, you guessed it, a college dorm. Public Housing forever.
Sloths - Twenty Years (The Ghost is Clear/Don't Live Like Me/Illuminasty, 2014)
I became acquinted with the Portland three-piece Sloths via Kyle Bates shoegaze-drone project Drowse. I've gained immensely from blazing through their back catalog on an especially long run. Their latest EP, Twenty Years is their most assured and clarified statement of purpose to date. A lot of bands who do this really intense mathy hardcore with moments of major-chord brilliance, black metal and post-rock bridges have the dynamics all wrong. Instead of stopping the song dead in its tracks to get all twinkly and sappy in the name of dynamics (or dramatics) before gaining steam before an "epic" breakdown, Sloths are pretty consistent in keeping their songs focused and linear, utilizing tremolo-picked guitars to augment some particularly blistering chorus or some Isis-like bridge to give just enough breathing space by leaping into another jerky, mathy and HEAVY breakdown. Centered around the themes of loss and suicide, the EP comes to a final and ultimately hopeful note amongst beautifully crushing guitars, blast beats and guttural screams of acceptance of leaving the dead buried and living just to live. Included on the EP is a killer cover of Slint's "Breadcrumb Trail" that is a faithful recreation if I've ever heard one if those Louisville dudes listened to a ton of Neurosis.