February Singles Round-Up
by Kevin J. Elliott

Apologies if things ’round here have been Columbus-centric the past few weeks, but there’s just so much in these parts that it’s hard not to rep the obvious. Consider this a make-up, a little survey of the piles of records that have piled up in the basement. I decided on three records that contain the spectrum of goodness contained in those piles, going from light to grey to complete filthy black. Be on the lookout, as there are not only big things on the horizon for Agit Reader as a whole, but this column as well.

Christmas, “Namiot” (K)
Being on K Records, it’s almost a given that Christmas hails from Olympia. I’ve never been, but I’m under the impression that Olympia is an even more exaggerated version of Portlandia, as if they’ve been stuck in the ’90s eternally. K has gone a long ways from their International Pop Underground days, and usually in the wrong direction. So I was expecting “Namiot” to be twee as fuck, and at first it is. Still, it’s also rough and sexy. The combination of Emily Beanblossom’s indecipherable, and often childish, babble with guitarist Pat Scott-Walsh’s flimsy noodling is actually refreshing. It makes sense that Christmas was birthed in a ratty bar in Poland. “Namiot” has all the ingredients for disaster—even the dreaded dance-punk beat gets unearthed here. But much like similarly Dada-driven, avant-pop groups (Deerhoof and Ponytail are two that spring to mind), Christmas rallies past pretension because they only seem to be having fun—footloose and funky while they do it. They’re not overly concerned with trendy notions.

One guy who is a rapidly declining trend of pretentious trap-doors is Calvin Johnson. The B-side here is his Dub Narcotic version of “Namiot,” which is nothing more than the track muted so he can tinker over top with obnoxious snare taps and the occasional blow of his melodica. Not sure if this was intended for later in the evening, when everything’s slower and drained of that special “fun” that Christmas brings, but regardless, the first side is equipped with enough grooves that there’s no need to flip.

Pink Reason, Desperate Living EP (Almost Ready)
Though we’ve been waiting more than four years for Kevin Failure’s follow-up to his oft-proclaimed misery masterpiece, Cleaning the Mirror, he’s kept the scum busy with a slew of tiny records that have shown Pink Reason’s ever-morphing sound progress/regress in real time. Desperate Living should reportedly be the penultimate 7-inch leading up to his next LP (which is rumored to be called Shit in the Garden). Having procured said record on the Siberian black market, I can safely say that the two songs that start Desperate Living, “Empty Stomach” and “The Song With No Name,” are nothing like the black-hole psychedelic histrionics growing in the Garden. The two blasts are instant crust-party rather than epic introspective downer blues, quickly recorded with Failure’s new live band. “The Song with No Name,” in particular, revels in Failure’s roots as a lawless, drug-fueled participant in his native Wisconsin hardcore scene. It was probably a place where bands like the Wipers and Dead Moon—and perhaps the Jabbers—pulled much more weight than Black Flag or the Misfits. Truly, though, I imagine the day Failure first heard Jim Shepard is the day he can rightfully say he had changed his tune. The B-side here is a cover of V-3’s raucous “Your Girlfriend.” Failure does a righteous take on Shepard’s ghost moan, pouring gasoline on the flames of a burning pile of forgotten Shepard reels. With a confident rhythm section propelling the song beyond the room, Failure has plenty of space to stay true to Shepard’s unwieldy use of sci-fi electronics and monstrous feedback. This is not a tribute. This is the shape of things to come.

Penis Geyser and Lotus Fucker, Split 7-inch (Solar Funeral)
Columbus label Solar Funeral has been a beacon for heads looking for the Hesher grotesque. They produce lovingly constructed premiere records blasting all types of extremities, from minimum doom to ultra-grind and hybrids riding the spectrum. These guys don’t get nearly enough ink, so here goes.

Penis Geyser from Columbus are nihilistically anonymous, unless, of course, you’ve lurked out to see them at a local house show or happen to live next door to where they practice. Recorded “throughout” 2010, their side is quite a bit of nightmarish fun if you pine for the days when bands like Man Is the Bastard or the Locust ruled extremist playlists. I’d like to imagine this as a post-post-hardcore that is completely without irony and self-reflection, taking the practice of making flash-pan noise blasts to brand new levels of heavy. The aforementioned bands would dissect the punk riff to a primal end and speed it up to resemble meth-casualty easy listening, while these guys reduce that essence even more, spending just as much time warming up (there’s equal amounts of feedback and ambling about the space) as they do thrashing the entrails of their source material. Considering these guys have shared cassette space with a Japanese band called Napalm Death Is Dead, Penis Geyser are not a concept that’s easy to digest. Something tells me, though, there’s more art here than not, and whoever Penis Geyser is, they’ve consciously choreographed every growl and impulsive riff contained herein. The flux between actual composition and awkward silences resembles something close to the Boredoms’ once destructive deconstruction of punk method acting.

Baltimore’s Lotus Fucker, on the other hand, is no less brutal, but much less impressionable. Somewhere after Carcass begat Discordance Axis, Lotus Fucker started paying attention. I’m not the one to really judge, as I’m forever impartial to the originals. But that said, Lotus Fucker, in their brief dalliance with black metal and grindcore, take their side to one-off their wares as best they can through repetition. Supposedly there are three songs here, though I’m only hearing the same looped, and admittedly, decrepit pile-drive of rat-pedaled thrash and abysmally technical drums ad nausea. Welcome to the new age of regurgitated sub-metal genres.