Duuude, Tapes! The Cloth, The Cloth

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on June 13th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

Philly trio The Cloth started kicking around last summer to hear their Thee Facebooks page tell it, but the wretched truth is that these three dudes have been around for a while in acts like Count von Count, Holy Dirt and Pagan Wolf Ritual, and I’ve taken that to be the reason why, when I first popped in Side Turtle of their five-song self-titled demo, it seemed The Cloth had an immediate idea of what they wanted to sound like. The three-piece is comprised of guitarist Nate Jaffe, bassist Tom von Count and drummer Jake van der Lindevon Count and Jaffe both contribute vocals — and their first release is made up of five short, crisp noise rockers that, on songs like “Touched” and “Leech Farmer,” call to mind some of later Akimbo‘s flirtations with melody and mid-period Kylesa‘s thicker-toned sludge grooves along with a grown-up-hardcore raucousness.

The band included a CD, and the tracks “Touched” and “Landsickness”‘ have made their way onto Bandcamp, but I didn’t want to listen to those first because it felt like cheating. When I popped the yellow cassette in my car’s player, the gnarl was immediate. I don’t know how much of the material was recorded live, but the instruments certainly feel that way, and raw as the production is — one imagines if you’re capturing an aggressive sound, Philly in February is a good place and time to do it — the demo’s punkier roots come through even in slower moments like von Count‘s bass starting up “Landsickness.” There’s no shying away from creating a tension and even less from answering it back with thrashing fuckall. The pure 90-seconds of punk on “I Smell a Rat” make no pretense of dynamics, but even then, Jaffe finds room for some surprisingly airy post-rock notes to float over. Round it out with the grunge churn of “Skinless” (the longest cut at a sprawling 3:43), and the tonality proves even more complex.

Both Side Turtle (pictured above) and Side Not Marked repeat the same program, and I have to agree with the advice of the inside liner, which devotes an entire panel to the words “Play Loud.” At the risk of spoiling it for anyone who might chase down a copy, The Cloth end each side of the tape with a sampled clip of Bill Hicks talking about the Kennedy assassination and American Gladiators. Not exactly timely, but the context applies as much as anything Hicks ever said did, and by that I mean here’s a white dude in a culturally privileged position with no critique of how that culturally privileged position allows him to critique the culture and patriarchy that put him in that privileged position in the first place; not that he should be appreciative, just that he’s all anger and no concrete challenge to or expressed awareness of his own place within the establishment he’s angry at. Still, I’ll take it over Dennis Leary, though if it was between Hicks and Kurt Vonnegut, who the band quote elsewhere, I fail to see the need for a choice at all.

But that’s on Hicks and not The Cloth. Point was that The Cloth set themselves up on their debut tape (hopefully the first of many releases on a variety of formats) with not necessarily a wide sonic scope, but a rawness and a natural sounding dynamic from which to build on subsequent outings. I wouldn’t ask more of a demo than that, and the more I go back to these five tracks, the more I hear in them. I don’t know how many copies they’re making, but if you can hunt one down, it might prove worth your while.

The Cloth, “Touched” & “Landsickness”

The Cloth on Bandcamp

The Cloth on Thee Facebooks

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On the Radar: Black Black Black

Posted in On the Radar on July 20th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

One thing about getting a phone call from Lo-Pan‘s Jesse Bartz is that the dude is almost always going to have a band recommendation, and generally speaking, it’s a tip you want to follow. Most recently, Bartz put me onto Brooklyn rockers Black Black Black, who feature in their ranks former Disengage vocalist Jason Alexander Byers and guitarist Jason CoxCox also handles Rhodes throughout Black Black Black”s self-titled debut full-length, which was self-released digitally through their Bandcamp page and as a download that comes with an accompanying art book — presumably of Byers‘ work, since he’s a noted visual artist who’s had gallery shows in New York, Ohio and Florida.

The band is rounded out by drummer Jeff Ottenbacher and bassist Johnathan Swafford, but for anyone who encountered Disengage, especially either as they were on 2000’s Obsession Become Phobias or 2005’s Application for an Afterlife swansong, at least some elements remain consistent in the new band. Songs are short and vary in intensity levels but remain consistently intelligent no matter the musical context, and bolstered by Andrew Schneider‘s production and guest appearances from Dave Curran (Unsane) and others, tracks like the catchy earlier cut “Pentagram On” or the later, punkier “Soar Like a Spider” (which boasts one of the record’s best choruses) have substance to back their crisp presentation.

“Pentagram On” opens with a kind of punker shuffle, and the ensuing “Wisdom, Knowledge and Fucked” reminds in its melodicism of some of what made Red Fang‘s Murder the Mountains so potent hook-wise, but the post-doom crashing of “Light Light Light” is coupled with a subdued verse melody and very quickly it becomes apparent that Black Black Black are not looking to be limited sound-wise. “Mishandled” takes the Andrew Scheider drum sound and pairs it with a bassline from Swafford that brings to mind the evocative tidalisms of Akimbo‘s Jersey Shores, and the album wraps with the strong closing trio of “Lexipro Devil,” “Drum 0)))))))” — which, yes, is a drum solo, but an awesomely named one — and “Son of Bad,” which adds Moog and organ to an already potent melody in the guitar and vocals.

As hard as that kind of thing always is to pin down, there are some grunge-type melodies in “Son of Bad,” which “Lexipro Devil” also works to set up with minor key progressions in its intro from Cox and restrained vocals from Byers throughout, which even with the malevolent churn in the bridge is a far cry from the 1:23 punch of “Redeath,” but even that is followed by the bass-heavy “Fever is Law,” the verse of which seems to nod at Arc of Ascent. Clearly it’s a pretty wide breadth they’re working with, and as the record was released in March, I thought I’d pass on Bartz‘s tip in case anyone else wanted to check it out. Here’s Black Black Black, courtesy of the Bandcamp stream:

Black Black Black on Bandcamp

Black Black Black on Thee Facebooks

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