Kung Foo Grip’s new EP was a light in an otherwise dark month. Photo courtesy of the artist

The Best Local Records We Heard This May

Despite the onslaught of sad news this month, the local scene kept pumping out gold nuggets.

May was a rough month for the Seattle music community. Cairo, the vital above-ground DIY venue responsible for fostering a remarkably large swath of this city’s freak scene, announced it would close its doors in June. Then Adrian Guerra, the powerful drummer of Seattle’s internationally celebrated metal group Bell Witch, passed away at age 36—leaving behind a stunning catalogue that includes 2015’s funeral doom opus Four Phantoms, an album that rightfully topped many Best Of lists. Then, not long after, Jeremy Cooper, guitarist and vocalist of Seattle’s nervy underground post-punk trio Display, passed away at 34, just weeks after releasing the excellent album Time and Time Again. Living in Seattle can feel like drowning in an open wound sometimes—with the homelessness crisis, the housing crisis, the homogenization of overdevelopment, the constant promise of natural disaster, the maddening uptick in hate crimes, and the vocal, rising chorus of folks looking to move elsewhere, it’s easy to succumb to immobilizing feelings of despair. That said, at the end of every month when I scour Bandcamp and Soundcloud to listen to the music made here, I always leave with a sense of hope—no matter what anybody says or what passes, brilliant art happens in this place, and I feel lucky to experience it while it’s here. With that, let’s get to it, starting with that final record from the late Jeremy Cooper of Display:

Display

Time and Time Again

Dissonance is a virtue. Nothing really makes sense, so why pretend? There’s something really bracing about hugging the disorder and discord of the universe closely, and Time and Time Again is a testament to that. It opens with what sounds like a backwards guitar belch, with front man Jeremy Cooper repeating “Time and time again! See you in the end!” That promise came true when Cooper passed away last week, not long after I first heard this record. It’s a fantastic farewell—one Cooper, wherever he is now, should be very proud of. Nothing on this post-punk/no-wave-indebted album is settled; the rhythmic and melodic foundations of each herky-jerky song constantly shift and betray one another. “Look on the Bright Side” builds on a scuttling, decaying racket, riding a thin hi-hat rhythm until the whole thing falls apart in a torrent of satisfying, siren-like squelches. That constant lopsidedness makes the rare moments of clarity all the more affecting, as on “Sunday Vague”’s dreamlike opening, full of quiet, heavily delayed pings. Those moments arrive amid the chaos too: “Style as Usual,” a churning ball of frenetic energy, begins with Cooper insisting “Nothing left to say but the kids are alright! Ra ra ra, pants are too tight!” For a band that spent its career illuminating the dark DIY cracks of this city, it’s a fitting send-off—and a solemn reminder to press onward toward whatever brave new world/pants trend lies ahead. displaysound.bandcamp.com

Kung Foo Grip

Chemtrails

MCs Eff Is H and Greg Cypher have been grinding hard since 2009, releasing a steady stream of high-minded records that touch on everything from the apocalypse, climate change, and New Age indigo children, to the political ramifications of social media and dreams of sci-fi utopian futures. For artists this prolific, it’s easy to sacrifice quality for quantity—churning out records for content’s sake in a fruitless hustle—but that’s never been the case for Kung Foo Grip. Each album treads new sonic or conceptual ground, and you can hear the two growing up alongside their art. Chemtrails, the duo’s first EP through Seattle’s ascendant, eclectic label Cabin Games, is the most mature and refined Kung Foo Grip have sounded, the culmination of years of perfecting their deftly interwoven lyrical tag-teaming. Featuring heavily on the record is Kjell Nelson, Cabin Game’s house producer, who lent his talent to labelmate Silas Blak’s excellent Editorials: (Wartunes). Blak and Nelson both appear on “ANTI-Social,” a haunted, eerie track that builds on the duo’s penchant for icy darkness, as on Indigo Children’s “FVCKV9TA5” and Growing Up in the Future’s “The Wave.” But the duo’s playful, buoyant optimism is present here as well—opener “Keep it 100” swirls with spacey synths, a deliciously funky bass line, and a sophisticated, dusky rhythmic break halfway through. “Zerkin,” the duo’s paranoid, epileptic single, is the genre buster here, an interesting fusion of propulsive techno/house that suddenly turns into subwoofer-busting trap. Hopefully, EFF Is H and Greg Cypher have more experiments planned for their eventual full-length debut on Cabin Games. kungfoogripbbj.bandcamp.com

Xylitol

Demo

“Sad guy rock/Suck my cock” and “Rapist die/Mincemeat pie,” two lyrical excerpts from the pithy couplet cacophony of “Femme Shoulder Devil,” are just a few of the innumerable golden lines of poetry on this debut recording from revelatory Olympia hardcore group Xylitol. If children were made to study these texts in English class rather than Shakespeare or Byron, I bet they’d pay much closer attention, achieve higher GPA’s, and leave far better prepared for the world that lies ahead of them. I for one want to tattoo all these words on my thighs. You wouldn’t know one word the band is saying, however, if they hadn’t typed them up on their Bandcamp—the lead singer shrieks like a rabid flaming bat getting sucked into a vortex, sometimes forfeiting words altogether for an exasperated but satisfying guttural “RAWWRGH!” It’s a style they sum up well in the rollicking “Chaos Approach”: “Don’t text each other anymore/Communicate with bricks.” The band’s blunt-force approach to politics, a tactic they share with fellow Olympians G.L.O.S.S. and Slouch, is refreshing in both its brutality and humor. Unlike the earnest and light-footed wayartists tend to treat politics in Seattle, Xylitol just wants to smash society with a bat, and there’s something liberatory about that raw but reasoned fury. “Let’s not celebrate a chance to eat at a shit buffet,” they scream on the chorus of the blistering “Shit Buffet,” a song that decries the state of killer cops, corporatized and assimilated queer culture, and the feeling of being “force-fed concessions.” In 2016, a year that, in America at least, feels as though the democratic promise of “choice” is becoming more and more illusory, the song grinds like a clarion call to remember there’s always a third option to the shitty “lesser of two evils” false dichotomy—smash that shit down and build something of your own on top. Xylitolband.bandcamp.com

Wristboi

Restraint EP

Heat Records continues its … hot streak with this new three-song EP from Wristboi—a Seattle producer who loves Castlevania-sounding synth tones. Rather than pairing the chintzy lines with bitcrushed beats, the typical route for retro-obsessed chiptuners, the interesting flip here is Wristboi’s simultaneous love of the future-leaning club-rhythms that have been gaining steam on avant-friendly dance floors over the past few years—metallic, hyperkinetic clangers that liberally reappropriate harsh Foley effects (think gunshots, broken glass, whirring drills). It’s a fun tonal fusion that’s, perhaps inadvertently, embodied on the record’s cover art—a CGI rendering of a mech. If you love giant robot suits, you’ll probably love this album too. heatrecords.bandcamp.com

ksears@seattleweekly.com

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