Punk

PREMIERE

Bichkraft - Desire

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By Phillipe Roberts

Long before “dystopia” lost its edge in a buzzword death spiral, Urkanian four-piece Bichkraft were conjuring up squalls of noise-forward post-punk that gleefully bit back at the rise of global authoritarianism. Their first three Wharf Cat releases culminated in last year’s liberating 800, which saw the band take a sonic leap towards a tighter, more refined sound. Back in the studio yet again, Bichkraft fashion a subversive new sound on “Desire,” a bombshell in their discography that downshifts on the nervous energy towards a swaggering dance rock track that takes a brutal government to task. 

Lounge-style keys and bouncing percussion cover for lyrics indicting the repressive Ukranian regime for raiding dance clubs to forcibly conscript young men into the military, a relatively common occurrence in Bichkraft’s native Kiev. Vocalist Jenia Bichowski’s anguished delivery of the haunting hook - “Baby, baby it's true / There's no safe place for you” - speaks to the depth of dread churning beneath the surface of their collective minds, poisoning romance with fear. Guitars gleam like knives in the background, shifting between angular melodicism and frayed noise as they stumble, seasick, over each other. With the track careening to a close, Bichowski sings “I’m just hanging on” in a stupor, wounded by the violence he’s seen and anticipating the violence that’s sure to come as men are ripped off the streets. As both reportage and rock n’ roll, “Desire” hits the mark, dead center.

You can pre-order a 7” of “Desire” over on Wharf Cat’s site here.

REVIEW: Dove Lady - F

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Phillipe Roberts

Tossing out one last release only hours before the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, Dove Lady slide into home plate with three records under their belts for 2017. For most acts, a breakneck pace like that would suggest a “golden year” burst of creativity, a flash-in-the-pan outlier. But with 20 EPs to go in their crusade to drop one for each letter of the alphabet, Dove Lady seem to be revving up, trying to take the rest of their marathon at full steam. Even if they maintain that three-a-year pace and drop any detours like last year’s numerical swerve One, the DC duo are looking at at least 6 more years of charging towards that finish line.

But the thrill of the band’s evolution, the thumping, oxygen-flooded heart of those heady ambitions, comes down to pure mystery: what kind of band will Dove Lady be at the end of all this? Song by song, Andrew Thawley and Jeremy Ray are engaged in a game of musical pointillism, brushing a few new dots onto a canvas that, as of EP F, we’re still seeing up close. Years from now, when we stand back at the close of EP Z, what sort of cohesive image will (or could) emerge from the expanding cacophony of genres spilling out of these two?

And yet, like all of their previous works thus far, F is an album obsessed with moments, cohesion be damned. Dove Lady sinks their teeth into melodies with a uniquely rabid dedication to impulsive leaps in songwriting logic. No idea is safe or sacred. No song too pretty or catchy to escape a little bit of mutilation. At its furthest extreme, this philosophy coughs up a real head-turner on “Education Soul Connection.” Chopped up, spidery funk-rock riffing rides down the scales into a blend of gooey, yearning psych-rock reminiscent of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, before growing a pair of legs and hoofing it off into oblivion with a passage that pairs a Cash-style western drum shuffle with an explosively jagged math-rock lead guitar line. By the time the dust settles in your ears, you’re halfway through noise anthem “Volleyball, Volleyball Star Captain,” shaking it to a sweaty, palm-muted riff and the titular chant for the cartoon superhero you never knew you needed.

For all the muscular shredding and complex time signature noodling to be had on F, the EP is not without its quieter, more meditative moments. Opener “You Are All My People” is their most convincing attempt at lo-fi ambience so far. Looped piano, field recordings, and scrapped, Gamelan-style guitars squash, bend, and reverse into an immersive digitized swamp, saturated with humid texture à la Deerhunter. And the back half of “Let It Shine,” where the band quickly trades in the more anthemic opening for a slinky doo-wop waltz, soothes even as it theorizes that “acceptance is a sore thing.”

But on that slippery final track, “Occupation,” Dove Lady gel into their finest moment, peppering spoken-word monologuing about the wave of nationalist fear-mongering spreading across the country over synth chops and a diseased-sounding, moaning chorus, mocking the new-wave schmaltz of U2’s “With Or Without You” with both a wry grin and a heavy heart. It’s pop gone awry for a country lost at sea. Dove Lady are leading us somewhere, the map held tightly to their chests. Breadcrumb by breadcrumb, dot by dot, they challenge us to enjoy the pit stops, to see one color at a time. And so far, it’s working.

REVIEW: Dove Lady - E

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Phillipe Roberts

Pause any song on Dove Lady’s excellent new EP E, fast forward 30 seconds or so, and try to guess where you’ll end up. Press play and listen for the sound of your expectations shattering. Five releases into a 26-EP project, Dove Lady only seem further away from solidifying their sound, and even less inclined to drop an outline around the white-hot plasma of punk, noise, ambient, and prog fueling their remarkable chemistry.

Barring the closing noise improvisation of “Eye Against Eye,” each song on E is a breathless sprint across genres. Opener “DZ Theme” comes slithering in on a mournful reversed guitar loop, grows a skeleton to the tune of martial drum triplets, and promptly implodes into fuzz-fried punk ferocity. Dove Lady have the attention span of the “SCAN” function on your radio. Songs unfold like a series of brief, dramatic love affairs. They might swoon over delicate, folky falsetto at the beginning of “Slapback,” but they’ll leave you in the lurch if you catch feelings while they flirt with hip-hop breakbeats and a smooth, surf-inspired interlude, only to leave the scene with a titanic, crashing alt-rock outro.

Given how recklessly catchy they remain throughout, it’s hard not to get attached to any one of these sections. Each suggests a track that would be tremendous on its own; as far as I’m concerned, the spectral R&B groove on “Can’t Be Sad” could go on forever. However, the beauty of E is that it constantly works to subvert that false sense of security while keeping you thoroughly entertained. If you love the chase, open your heart and give it a spin.

REVIEW: B Boys - Dada

Laura Kerry

“What do punk and dada have in common?” sounds like the kind of joke a cultural studies professor would ask while spilling crumbs from a pungent cheese-covered cracker onto his tweed blazer. Or, as seems to be the case with the band B Boys, it’s a question that three dudes might ask themselves while smoking weed on a couch.

For their latest album, Dada, Brooklyn-based B Boys features a mock question-and-answer in the place of a traditional bio that shows Andrew Kerr, Brendon Avalos, and Britton Walker in top form, equal parts philosophical and silly. “That’s a lot deeper than you look,” their fictional interviewer observes, after they explain that their album is “equal parts collective unconscious and personal experience.”

Dada, too, is a lot deeper than it first appears. Throughout the album, straightforward rock instruments play stripped-down ‘60s and ‘70s–influenced punk in 13 simply constructed songs. Most of the tracks are taut and crisp, with repeated structures and fairly uncomplicated instrumental parts. Not always so simple, though, is the way that these different parts fit together. In songs such as the all-instrumental “Time,” the bass and guitar intersect and dance apart, creating off-kilter, energetic rhythms. The dynamics throughout Dada are the kind best described by action metaphors: sputtering, buzzing, jumping. Sometimes the result is spacious and slow, sometimes it’s dense and quick, but more often than not, it provokes a low-level underlying sense of anxiety.

That anxiety reflects in the vocal parts, too. Most of the time, the singer uses a monotone half-yell—signaling the nihilistic side of punk over the angry—but the lyrics convey a much more nuanced spread of emotions. Though the art movement for which they named their album emphasizes nonsense and lack of meaning, Dada often sounds much more existentialist. “Identity seen in a mirror / This body encases all my fear… / Misery, euphoria / Pressures compressing one’s character,” they sing in their opener with the significant name, “B Boys Anthem.” On the closer, they round out the philosophy with, “What a man can be he must be (Nothing else matters) / To scale his hierarchy of needs (Describing patterns).” Much of the album concerns itself with large human questions. What is selfhood? What does it mean to be human?

B Boys embrace nonsense, too, though. In “Fear It,” a song with an uptempo list of worries, they sing, “When I don't feel anything and my mind draws blank / I repeat (I repeat) / Not everything has to make sense.” Embracing meaninglessness is the antidote to the fear and anxiety that they describe so sharply and economically throughout their album. This is the same embracing of nonsense that happens at the end of their fake interview bio, when, in response to the question, “Do you have anything specific you’d like to express to get the fans going?” the bio says they get up and turn on a wall of fans.  

Clearly, “dada” is sometimes just a combination of meaningless syllables, and a no-frills punk album is just a vibrant mix of rock instruments and chanting vocals that’s good to shake your head to. Other times, though, it's also much more.

REVIEW: Dove Lady - One

Laura Kerry

I remember the surprise I felt when I first learned that Washington, DC has a history of fostering an influential punk and hardcore scene. To me, the nation’s capital meant pristine monuments and the respectable act of governance (ha). It was thrilling to learn that under all that marble, people had been airing their feelings and making noise.

Andrew Thawley and Jeremy Ray live in DC, and their band, Dove Lady, shows signs of the post-hardcore scene from which it sprung. Their latest album, One—the first full-length after a series of alphabetized EPs, A, B, C, and D—begins with an explosive oscillation of fuzzy guitar. Drums come in, crashing wildly, and the vocals emerge as a monotone yelp. The start of the opener, “7777,” promises to deliver on the DC legacy. Soon, though, Dove Lady pulls back. “7777” morphs several times, changing from the harsh pulse of punk guitar to smoother, quieter modes and back again.

Punk is only one edge of Dove Lady’s experimental territory on One. Throughout the album, they transition from post-hardcore to jazz, and even to a moment of R&B smoothness on “Carl Salesman.” And when they do get loud, the duo never fully loses control. Rhythmic and tight all the way through, they only skirt the edges of chaos before dissolving into calm—a move that's as exciting as total mayhem. Dove Lady are masters of tension and release.

Such mood swings happen not only in the sound, but also in the lyrics. “In essence,” Dove Lady said in an interview with GoldFlakePaint, “One is about accepting and forgiving one’s self for all of life’s mistakes; it is a sonic representation of moving on from the past and into the present.” Naturally, that is a fraught process. The album reflects that in moments of anxiety: “I'm scared of the way that you might look at me If you hear what I’m thinking / I’m tired of uncertainty,” they sing on “What’s Wrong Roberta,” and “Sometimes I get so lonely and I don’t know” on “Carl Salesman.” For all of its musical trickery, One’s sentiments are delightfully earnest.

And Dove Lady is never more delightful and earnest than in the moments of catharsis that lend the album a feeling of simultaneous gravity and lightness. “It’s time / Won’t be long / ‘Til I’m comfortable,” they sing over a catchy guitar melody in the appropriately named “Uplifting Song.” At the end, the track reaches a satisfying release with the line, “It’ll all be ok.” And just as One begins with the roar of guitar, it ends with another loud statement. “Anything that I want / I can get if I try,” they sing on the closing track, “Boar Switch,” before the instruments and vocals swell, coming closer to spilling over into chaos than anywhere else on the album.

A product of their city but with a strong sense of their own sound, Dove Lady makes music how they want to.