The Best Music of February 2013

Impose Automaton

Destruction Unit

Remember those Faces of Death VHS tapes you could rent in the 90s from locally owned video rental stores? It had to be a mom n' pop joint because there was no way in hell Blockbuster was letting videos depicting deaths from around the world through its filter. But, those local shops knew that young boys were fascinated with death. It began with squashing bugs and it culminated in middle school with renting Faces of Death and watching it at a latchkey friend's house.

One of the visuals that stuck with me from Faces of Death was a video from Russia of soldiers torturing a captive or heretic of some sort by attaching all his limbs to rope and having them tugged in four directions by horses. I tell you this because that's what February felt like for Impose. We had no idea which album was the best. Was it the San Jose rapper who linked up with Greedhead and Cities Aviv? Was it the LA producer who spliced G-Funk and Chicago ghettohouse? Was it the 90s shoegazers that took six years to finish one-quarter of its reunion record? Was it a punk band of suspected Nazi sympathizers?

In the end, we went with the album with artwork that featured a face of death. Not simply because it worked for ancedotal reasons or nostalgia, but because it was a damn good record made by a genuinely punk group of men who reached the summit of their desert psych-style.

The Best Album of February 2013:

Destruction Unit, Void (Jolly Dream Records)

Void is an apt title for Destruction Unit’s latest work. The group conjures desert imagery with each track, but presents the wide, scorched earth as a complicated space. Certain tracks are spacious and dawdling, evoking a cold and alienating place. Others badger listeners with plodding and savage repetition – a reminder that a great, vast nothingness is something to fear as well. Arizona’s desert landscape influences every Destruction Unit release, but none do so this thoroughly. Earlier work was directed more by Rousseau’s affinity for synth-punk, hindered by his involvement with multiple bands simultaneously and generally more informed by circumstance. Void speaks the truth of Destruction Unit’s dehydrated psyche and labors intensely to articulate it.

The Best Music of February 2013 (in no particular order):

The Underachievers, Indigoism (Brainfeeder)

Rolling with the Beast Coast movement that includes Joey Bada$$, these dudes from Flatbush rock a similar 90s throwback style. In less than a year, Ak and Issa Dash have grown out of a BK DIY community to opening shows for Kendrick Lamar. Self-proclaimed Indigo anthem “Herb Shuttles” surfaces early as a certified, blaring bass banger, while “Leonard Shepard” smoothes things out and let's their lyricism ride.

Umberto, Confrontations (Not Not Fun)

Confrontations can be really evocative. But it gains some dignity from Hill’s unwillingness to go for cheap thrills or laughs. A faux ‘80s soundtrack isn’t exactly the first place you’d expect emotional resonance, but something like steely fatalism and the dread of preordained disaster lurk between all those shrieking synth arpeggios.

Antwon, In Dark Denim (Greedhead)

Welcome San Jose by the Bay's new big poppa Antwon to Greedhead, where tales of carnal exploits and cameos by Himself, and fellow Greedhead-er Big Baby Ghandi are brought to life with production from DJ Slorp, seafaring Berlin blog-waver Teams, and the always amazing Cities Aviv.

Salva, Odd Furniture EP (Friends of Friends)

The “Mercy” remix with RL Grime put him on the big radars and he's responded tenfold on “Drop That B” by amalgamating his origins in Chicago juke and “Coffee Pot” repetitions set to a hijacking of Miami bass, and the finer points of West Coast G-Funk. “Drop That B” is cut from familar cloths, a bit of “Boyz In Da Hood” hitting hydraulic switches, that make it sound like a challenge issued to Power 106FM to keep him on the airwaves.

Serengeti, Saal (Graveface)

Released on Graveface, Saal is a brilliant collaborative record with German producer Sicker Man, deserving of an honest listen, much like most Serengeti records. The attribute often overlooked in Serengeti's art is his use of setting. He's rapped about the girl at Menard's hardware store, the worst night in Chicago Cubs' history, the redemption story of an amateur wrestler, and the peeping view point outside a girl's bathroom window. In Serengeti's travels he finds a wealth of stories whether its a mundane Midwest hardware store or a dancefloor in Berlin, which is where “Breaking Vows” might take place.

Beach Fossils, Clash The Truth (Captured Tracks)

Clash The Truth certainly does evoke some very particular scenes and eras (especially the point in the early-‘80s when some branches of post- punk began evolving into something dreamier and less angular), this is more well studied revisionist history than nostalgia trip. You could align this album with the same list of influences that can be attached to a good percentage of Captured Tracks releases, but the difference is in how they’re filtered through a recognizable sensibility that’s simultaneously jittery, laconic and resigned.

KRISTA (James Pants & Vex Ruffin), Space Tom Test 45 (Stones Throw)

If there's one thing we'll never get enough of it's vintage James Pants. By teaming up with Vex Ruffin, Pants has revisited his Welcome-era electro-funk with a group the two are calling KRISTA. Vex Ruffin is known for his minimalist punk that teeters into rap-dom, but here he's immersed in a Pantsian world of analog synths and interstellar funk.

Iceage, You're Nothing (Matador)

The punk band who only does press with major corporate media outlets. And might be nazi sympathizers.

My Bloody Valentine, m b v (self-released)

The record that was “three-quarters of the way done” in 2007 delivers in 2013. The last quarter musta been a fuckin' doozy.

The Lovely Bad Things, The Late Great Whatever (Volcom)

After cutting their teeth with Burger Records, the LBTs got swooped by your little grom-bro's favorite clothing brand turned label, Volcom Entertainment. Maybe it had something to do with the LA Weekly calling their cassette New Ghost/ Old Waves one of the best punk records in the city in 2011? Maybe it was some of the same tactics they employed when they limped into a slot on the Primavera Sound festival. Much like The Orwells, The Lovely Bad Things give off the vibe that the kids are alright and not ruined by the shameful path of pop-punk since the mid-90s. You wanna root for the LBTs because Black Francis really shoulda let Kim Deal take the reigns more and maybe this time a band can get it right.

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