Skanfrom, Low Red Center, Total Control

Jason Jackowiak

The singles collection, Skanfrom record cover, Low Red Center record cover, total control record cover

Since we've been pummeling your ear canals with vicious noise the past few weeks, we figured we'd bring it down a notch and ply you with some minimal synth jams to help soothe the palette and sharpen the mind.

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That sounds like some real new age bullshit now that we've typed it out, so, anyway, listen to these synth-mongers get down analog style and, y'know, put a cold compress on your head or something.

Our first transmission this week comes from the (somewhat) legendary Skanfrom and his newest outing in quite some time, the Are You Alone? 7-inch EP on burgeoning imprint The All-Clear. The nom de plume of Richard Semsroth, this three-song platter comes on like John Carpenter re-interpreting the back catalog of Boards of Canada, albeit stripping things down to their analog skeletons and revving-up the BPMs to make it a true floor scorcher. The title track on the A-Side could well have soundtracked one of Tron's more pivotal chase scenes, a barrage of high-watt synth runs and avuncular rhythm programming gradually building momentum, pulsing and throbbing like a beating heart until it shifts into overdrive, blasting shards of white-hot melody all about the power grid. The two tracks on the flipside, “I Will Miss You Pts. 1 & 2” also pulse with a spindly mechanized power, though, here, he eases back the throttle a bit and grinds everything to a slow halt, with a eerie, hawking-esqe voice coldly proclaiming, 'I miss you' at the finale of the track. This release is limited to 300 copies and is sold out at most distros, but Norman Records seems to still have some in stock.

Next we have some home-grown talent in the form of Austin, TX ensemble Low Red Center and their “Momentary Switch” b/w “Alles Klar” 7-inch on Answering Machine Records. This two-song slice of pre-dates their excellent 100inch on S-S by a few months, and definitely leans more towards synth-pop than their more recent work, though, there's still a rough-hewn texture teeming below the surface that ensure that nobody will mistake them for Erasure anytime soon. “Alles Klar”, especially, clips along at a ghastly pace, burbling and bubbling analog loveliness from every pore in its quest for Moogtastic nirvana. Though limited to 200 copies, these are still available from the label as well as Permanent Records.

We've saved the best for last this week, a bombastic new two-song slab from Australian duo Total Control, “Retiree” b/w “Meds II” released on the always awesome Iron Lung Records. Something of a radical departure from the more straight-ahead punk to be found on their first 7-inch on Aarght!, this demonic wax platter finds them lost somewhere amid the ranks of the Tubeway Army, knocking out claustrophobic synth-punk that rides a razor-wire to infinity. The rapid-fire programming, snarling synths and Suicide-by-way-of-The Saints guitarnage of “Meds II” is delightfully devastating, but “Retiree” is the true standout here, with its subtle nods to Gary Numan the track grinds along on a clattering, mechanized pulse that makes it sound like a factory imploding on itself, lunatic vocal howling sounding like punters trapped beneath steel support beams or being snapped in half by unstoppably spinning gears–essentially, the perfect soundtrack to complete and utter carnage. Still available from the label (though Iron Lung are currently on tour) and from at least a handful of other distros, including Phantom City.

So there you have it, some less painful tunes for your palette this week, but make sure to stop by in the coming weeks as we've got a few neat tricks up our sleeve, and might even change up the size (oh no!) right quick to keep y'all on your toes.

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