Does the world need another music blog? The answer to that tiny question is obvious, but also (as it turns out) irrelevant. Skipping out on doing a thing, based on the idea that no one cares if you do that thing is a logical, bottomless cop-out. The enthusiasm of youth drove me toward punk music, and everything surrounding it. Such is adolescence in a boring town, during an uneventful American decade: it was sports, drugs, or ‘other’ and I’m grateful to have chosen correctly. I never remember wasting time wondering if my contribution would matter to anyone. The momentum and energy from youthful curiosity was addictive, powerful and (lucky for me) automatic. A desire to be involved in this thing took on many forms, though the niche of zine publishing was deepest. Lacking the confidence (or delusion) of a future as a great writer or graphic designer, I spent more energy cracking the code of publishing and self-financing. The result was a mountain of pro forma record reviews and band interviews, but a black belt in the logistics of bulk mail permits and newsprint quantity discounts. Of the internet's earliest casualties, CDs and black and white newsprint were high on the list. With it went my means of production: fewer mid-sized record labels existed to send me $100 every three months and fewer people sought information off floors near record store entryways. I trudged along for a while, self-publishing for the sake of involvement in a thing I still loved. Then, what followed was a decade of life getting in the way, but also a vague, persistent desire to write about music again. My old crutch of focusing on the nuts and bolts was gone. Most printed information about art and almost all recorded music is packaged and sold as souvenirs. Publishing itself is mostly screaming into a void online, but it’s also free and essentially automatic. Even as my…

From my late teens well into college, I spent five years under the yoke of a Kinko’s apron. There were upsides to the job: supplementing the punk scene I was knee deep in with free zines and flyers, and carte blanche to get stoned on breaks. That job made it possible for me to eke out a living, while focusing energy on stumbling toward adulthood through music and earning party school credits I’m still paying for a decade later. Through copy shop coworkers and happenstance, I stumbled into the early aughts IDM scene. It began with a vague interest in Boards of Canada, and deepened quickly through MP3 CD's with artist names in jagged Sharpie. Still young and intensely involved in a narrow swath of music, I wasn't expecting anything completely outside of punk and hardcore to really hook me. Despite fifteen years of gradually digging way deeper into ambient music, I've maintained a soft spot for that era. Over

the last year or so, a handful of the artists I stumbled across back then reemerged with mostly new material, some for the first time in years. Styrofoam - We Can Never Go Home Styrofoam has been the solo project from producer Arne Van Petegem, kicking around off and on for 20 years. I first crossed paths with I’m What’s There To Show That Something’s Missing, which is as musically on-the-nose as the album title. It was 2003, and painfully earnest was being done well, poorly and attempted constantly. In a sign of the time and place; Styrofoam’s remix of The Postal Service a year earlier was a likely entry point for many. I’m What’s There... fit right in with the indietronica scene of the time, but far from the sickly sweet and cold, glitchy poles. Thankfully, Van Petegem’s vocals were all the right things for this style: relatively sparse, unironic, and more accent than tentpole. As a result, much…

Fotocrime South Of Heaven As a purely conceptual thing, South of Heaven dropping in the first week of the end of the world makes for an on-the-nose fanzine ad tagline. In this case, it’s also an unfortunate reality. After more than a decade grinding out progressively complex heavy music in Coliseum, Ryan Patterson (now “R.”) launched Fotocrime as a solo project in 2017. The first EP and LP (2018’s Principle Of Pain) were solid, if meandering outgrowths of increasing new wave influences as Coliseum simultaneously wound down and found their voice. Touring behind those releases, first with a full band and then solo, Fotocrime seems to have evolved from “solo project” to just project. Most of side A seems purpose-built as more grower than shower, mid-tempo and seemingly meandering. On the first few listens, the songs seem like a setup, if not a test to split the room. But the lack of gimmicks, tempo swings or dynamics pays off; a

long game that’s obvious by “Up Above the World.” The core elements of what makes Fotocrime converge: bass tone and finesse complimented by synth lines and drum machines that are mechanical but not stiff. The mix is clear and fully-formed, but not sterile or half-full. Side B kicks off with “Never Fall Out of Love,” opening with a quick, persistent beat and an immediate contrast. What’s carefully established early in the record is quickly harvested. “Expulsion From Paradise” has an angsty snap to both drums and vocals; the closest thing here to latter-day Coliseum. “Blue Smoke” lands as the most direct statement on the record, a post-hardcore reading of peak DEVO: deceptively deep and relentlessly melodic. South Of Heaven by FOTOCRIME Conceptual and cute are too often cousins, but three years in Fotocrime is fully complete without any winking or nodding. The sweat equity is clear all over South of Heaven. There are collaborations throughout, including with frequent collaborators (and…

Frail Hands parted/departed/apart Already on their third LP since 2017, Frail Hands hail from the post-hardcore hotbed of (checks notes) Halifax, Nova Scotia. I happened upon their self-titled debut; a brief, frantic and nimble take on whichever wave of screamo we’re currently on. It fit the template in the best ways, while managing to be more memorable than most. Following a split with LA’s Ghost Spirit, Frail Hands are back with parted/departed/apart, representing obvious growth without qualifying as a departure. First, original vocalist Dawn Almeda retired from the band “due to vocal strain,” which is both unfortunate and instructive. The existing members absorbed vocal duties, stylistically similar but slightly less harsh and immediate. The same can

be said for the songs overall, drifting from a previous average of 90 seconds and ticking up near two minutes. parted/departed/apart by FRAIL HANDS Marginally longer songs and less harsh vocals may bum out the last few existing skramz purists, but Frail Hands’ expansion is all for the better. The result is equal parts dread and panic, an elusive and seemingly accidental balance. It adds range and staying power to a set of influences not generally known for either. “Nothing Said” is an immediate highlight, with bursts of micro-breakdowns and chaotic arpeggios bent into a near-perfect two-minute arc. "Mirrored Limbs" brings a similar mix of persistence and variety, barrelling forward without blurring together. Twelve Gauge Records