June 4, 2013

Today's Hotness: Two Inch Astronaut, Hausu, Hisoft

Two Inch Astronaut -- Bad Brother (detail)

>> If you are getting a strong DeSoto Records or Dischord vibe off of trio Two Inch Astronaut, well, that's little surprise. The act hails from Colesville, Maryland, a burg situated just north of the beltway that rings the district. On its forthcoming sophomore LP Bad Brother, Two Inch Astronaut proffer a fresh iteration of the '90s post-hardcore anthemics championed by acts such as Jawbox and Shudder To Think. The nine-song set from the self-described "stealthy dark goofy post-punk" threesome touts sophisticated, angular compositions that splay out into massive crescendoes or subdued creaking grooves. "Spank Jail," the second track on Bad Brother, illustrates Two Inch Astronaut's well-developed penchant for speed, intricate grooves, aggression and (just enough) melody, but the rest of the record reveals that the threesome ably works in myriad tempos and shadings. What is consistent throughout is a beautiful desperation and relatable unease, things that made records like Jawbox's For Your Own Special Sweetheart or even Hurl's brilliant DeSoto single "Positronic Ray" b/w "Radishes" remarkable every time you listened. Opener "Swol" -- an excellent rocker that seems one or two genetic mutations away from a composition by remarkable Boston labelmates Pile -- and the blissfully syncopated mid-album cut "Blood From A Loyal Hound" are available now for free download via Bandcamp and you should go grab those right now. However, Clicky Clicky is particularly taken with the emotional, monolithic rocker "Sternum." Exploding In Sound has kindly agreed to let us offer an exclusive stream of the track, so hit the Soundcloud embed below and then hold on to your hat. The label will release Bad Brother June 18. The set is available for pre-order from the band's Bandcamp right here as a digital download or 45RPM 12" LP. The vinyl is available in a limited edition of 250 pieces, and the first 100 sold have been pressed to translucent purple vinyl. Two Inch Astronaut's most recent prior release was a split single with Boston's angular-rock juggernaut Grass Is Green, the cringe-inducingly titled "Split Dicks," last September. Those two bands will reunite in the physical plane June 12, when they, along with Crinkle Face and Hive Bent, perform at O'Brien's in Allston Rock City. In the meantime, have a listen to "Sternum" via the embed below, and get pumped.

>> Hopping to the left coast, today we also concern ourselves with Portland, Oregon's melodic indie-punk quartet Hausu. The act is preparing for a huge summer tour and the late June release of its debut LP, Total. A preview track from the set, "Leaning Mess" (a play on the word "meaningless," maybe?) leads with clean melody lines and bright jangle but ultimately harder post-punk dynamics cast long, moody shadows across the composition. Lyrically, fronter Ben Friars-Funkhouser presents the sort of opaque romanticism of Ian Curtis and Joy Division, albeit with a delivery that accounts for the rise and (arguably for some, we suppose) the fall of hardcore punk music. It is Hausu's vivid, visceral instrumental performance on "Leaning Mess" that will hold listeners' close attention, as the band veers from more conventional verses into discordant passages that flirt with sonic white-outs, urged on notably by an increasingly unhinged Friars-Funkhouser in the song's final minute. Total is being issued June 25 on cassette by Bridgetown Records, and on CD by Hardly Art; no pre-order information for the latter is available as yet, but a recent Facebook post from Hausu states it is in receipt of the cassettes and expects to have them on offer when it launches an ambitious, exhaustive five-week North American tour this week. The quartet play a relatively local live date June 18, when the act performs at renowned Easthampton, Mass. art space The Flywheel on an all-ages bill that also includes Harmoos, Lovebird, Tender Cruncher and Abortus Fever. Make a note of the live date nearest you, as we suspect after several listens to the embed of "Leaning Mess" below you'll be thinking this is a quartet you need to see.

>> Sure, there are a great many things that the world can use a lot more of, but if you ask us enough times -- and particularly today -- we will almost certainly eventually say the world needs more music from the apparently short-lived dream-pop band Hisoft and its dazzling but even more obscure, Pittsburgh-spawned precursor The Low Numbers. We've mentioned both acts in the blog previously years ago (this post from 2005 is the most comprehensive), but they are at top of mind again today. That's because over lunch we were trolling YouTube looking for Lilys clips we hadn't seen before (more on that another time), when we found this great live set from Hisoft. The erstwhile Philly act was comprised of fronter and guitarist Gerhardt Koerner, bassist Jesse Trbovich (now part of Kurt Vile's Violators, we believe), guitarist Don Devore and drummer Jason Kourkounis, and at least Mr. Koerner had previously served as a part of the Precollections-era Lilys line-up, which should make the aforementioned line of YouTube inquiry make a bit more sense. The five-song live performance may or may not have been filmed at The Khyber in Philadelphia, and the set list suggests it must have been about the time of the release of Hisoft's brilliant 2005 EP Amateur. Four songs from the five-song EP are performed: "West Coast Keith," "Comfortable," "Country Voice" (listed as "Country" on the EP), and "Continental Luck." Hisoft closes with the brilliant Low Numbers tune "Josef Albers," the b-side from one of two singles the band released (the second single was actually issued under the band name Numbers). The YouTube clip is a crucial document of an unsung act perhaps at the height of its game, so do take the time to watch the set end to end.

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