Viking's Choice: Spanish Screamo, Bubblegum Punk, Eastern Orthodox Black Metal
Where you sat in the school lunchroom was a crisis: a minefield of jocks, preps, gaming nerds and sexually active band geeks. But what if the cafeteria culture map was based on, say, your favorite bands instead? Tables for fans of Paramore and Fall Out Boy, for Bad Moves and Future Teens. Here at Viking's Choice High, our lunch tables stretch for miles to encompass metal, punk, drone, screamo and free jazz. We like a bubblegummy pop song, too.
The playlist took a break last week, so I've got some jams to catch up on. High on Fire has a barn-storming cover of Bad Brains' "Don't Bother Me" from its Bat Salad EP, Laurie Anderson explores the Tibetan Book of the Dead and Cornelius made a perfectly tranquil theme song for Sa-Do (Way of the Sauna), a Japanese TV show about saunas. There's also a five-track mini-set dedicated to the late L.A. beatmaker Ras G, an Afrofuturist who was (and still is) several levels ahead of everyone else.
So pull up a chair, split that PB&J sandwich with a friend and geek out on some choice cuts found on Bandcamp. (Note: Some of these tracks can only be found on Bandcamp.)
Drei Affen, "Lama viva"
Spain's Drei Affen makes crusty, shreddy, ultra-dramatic screamo that tears basements apart, with a metallic bedlam worthy of Circle Takes the Square or Amygdala. I get sweaty and bruised just thinking about it.
Lisa Prank, "Rodeo"
Call it twee or cuddlecore, but I like Illuminati Hotties' self-loving description for the kind of sweet-n-sour bubblegum that Lisa Prank pops: "tender punk." Robin Edwards graduates from a guitar and drum machine to a full band for Lisa Prank's Perfect Love Song — produced by The Softies' Rose Melberg — and the bopping drums give a lovesick song played fast (like "Rodeo") a Ramones-dance-party abandon.
БАТЮШКА, "Песнь 1"
Like Pharcyde and Queensrÿche before them, there are two versions of Batushka (БАТЮШКА in Cyrillic), the Polish black-metal band that takes an old-school liturgical approach to lyrics with monk-like chants and imagery. I suppose you could say it's the Eastern Orthodox flip to Ghost's profane Catholicism, but Batushka's heresy flirts with reverence, not so much masking intent as just making everything mysterious. As the Metal Internet would have it, Krzysztof Drabikowski is the true heir to the Batushka title as its founder and, with Панихида, most faithful to the sound set forth on 2015's Litourgiya. Which brings me to...
Batushka, "Dziewiatyj Czas"
... what the Metal Internet deems as "Faketushka" which, as a portmanteau, makes little sense — but this about some spicy metal drama, not linguistics. Details are sketchy at best, but Bartłomiej Krysiuk, who heads this version, appears to have staged a creative coup and nabbed every official Batushka channel, including a record contract. Hospodi keeps the monk vibe, but throws in some big-budget rock swagger. And you know what? I like both. One keeps it kvlt, the other wants to play the runway clad in ominous habits.
The Deontic Miracle, "Music of Auspicious Clouds"
The thing about minimalism is that its name is a lie. This music — and everything held under its umbrella — uses timbre, tone and repetition not only to compose, but expand meaning. The Deontic Miracle only performed once (in 1976), but this new double LP adds to a slowly growing and enriching canon by the Swedish composer Catherine Christer Hennix. "Music of Auspicious Clouds" drones with an electric atmosphere, piercing the sky with live electronics and amplified Renaissance oboe and sarangi.
Kiki Hitomi, "Gain and Lose"
Major hat-tip to NPR Music colleague Otis Hart (who also has a weekly playlist worth scoping) for turning me onto Seitō: In the Beginning, Woman Was the Sun, an adsorbing compilation of women currently active in the Japanese experimental and electronic scenes. I keep returning to the spaceship dub of Kiki Hitomi, but it's impossible to pick just one highlight — there's enlightening array of textures to discover.
Cloud Rat, "Webspinner"
Both live and on record, Cloud Rat is a merciless experience — spiraling grindcore that slams all five senses. The trio takes a corkscrew to its blast-beaten noise-punk on the first shot from Pollinator, tightening a snarling melody around cyclonic riffs and Madison Marshall's urgent screams.
Susan Alcorn / Joe McPhee / Ken Vandermark, "Invitation to a Dream"
Susan Alcorn pulls an energy out of the pedal steel that feels both ancient and otherworldly. Two years ago, when Ken Vandermark (tenor saxophone, clarinet) posted about their first meeting in a studio with Joe McPhee (soprano saxophone, pocket trumpet), I was positively elated. The results, now finally getting a release, illuminate the flickering motions of exploration that spark a rapt creation. Absolutely thrilling improvisations here.
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