Hot off the presses from Cincinnati label Phratry Records is a 4-band, 7" that features the groups Joe 4 from Zagreb, Croatia, Aperiodic - who have roots in Dayton - as well as Cincinnati's own Mala In Se and Knife The Symphony.
Phratry, named "one of the best modern independent record labels in the region" by Mike Breen of CityBeat, just celebrated their 9th anniversary of producing fearless independent music and have been one of the driving forces behind such insanely influential local talent as Caterpillar Tracks, Ampline, Mad Anthony, Swear Jar, State Song, Thistle, Food (featuring Ed Crawford, formerly of fIREHOSE) and one my favorite live acts of the past year, Smoke Signals....
The 7” release is on 2 vinyl discs and each band gets one track per each side. But, included in the packaging is a download code for a digital copy as well as an additional track from each group. This is an odd, eclectic and difficult collection of music to review. Because of the immense talent and diverse artistic approaches manifested in this package, it is hard to find a ‘defining sound’ for each band.
Aperiodic, a band whose motto is “Freedom Through Dissonance,” lives up to their cause and opens the collection with “Something That Satisfies Me” - a very dark and sinister assault, recorded and mixed by Shane Chaney in Cincinnati. I am intrigued by this band and I would like to see them live. If nothing else, I want to see how they are able to carry off this sound in live performance – mostly because they remind me of Crust, a late 80s band out of Austin, TX, whose on-stage antics were as much a part of the show as the music. Aperiodic ‘s digital companion piece, entitled “Scene Crush,” is stygian and looming --the very soundtrack of the underworld where Cthulhu and the ancient ones wait eternally. As I listen to it, I imagine it as the soundtrack to a painting by Hieronymus Bosch.
In exquisite contrast, Mala in Se take ownership of Side B with “Crowd of Dead Grandparents.” Similar in style to label mates Smoke Signals..., Mala in Se’s primary driving force is exceptional talent in the rhythm section comprised of Andy Perkins on bass and Danny McPherson on drums. The track opens with a blistering clash of jazz and punk rhythms and tonality that allows guitarist Joseph Thompson to shine with a sensual combination of clean chords and layers upon layers of screaming sounds and samples. The digital bonus track by Mala in Se, entitled “Cats,” is one of my favorite songs in the collection. There is a simple and straightforward power to the song and the vocal work by all three band members combines flawlessly to exude tremendous energy and passion.
Croatia’s Joe 4 bust out Side C of the collection with “S.A.L.E.” a track which has a sound and production that reminds me heavily of British Columbia’s No Means No. Both this and the digital bonus track “Sui Generis” were mastered by Carl Saff at Chicago’s Saff Mastering. Saff also recently did the production on The Kickaways’ ShowYrTeeth. The production is arguably the best of the lot and really lets the sound of Joe 4 come shining through.
The coup-de-grace of this compilation comes from Knife The Symphony, a local rhythmic noise-rock band that has been gathering a lot of well-deserved praise lately. KTS is the perfect combination of off-beat sensibilities and in-your-face musical aggression that commands attention. “Room and Pillar” is the vinyl offering and is driven by a punching bass line by Andy Perkins and drum track by Jerry Dirr. The overwhelming sense of ‘we will take no crap from anyone alive’ is palpable and defines the discontent that underlies their sound. The digital bonus track, “Suit Up, Sleep It Off,” contains high-voltage vocals that are reminiscent of D. Boon [minutemen] - a comparison I do not make lightly – and the sonic timbre of a gender-swapped, testosterone-inflated Kim Gordon [Sonic Youth].
In reviewing this multi-disc, multi-format release as a ‘sampler platter’ for Phratry Records, the main conclusion I can come up with is that Cincinnati and the musical community at-large is being made bigger, better and stronger because of the independents -- the bold pioneers like those at Phratry Records who are willing to take risks, explore dangerous territory, defy the odds and embrace the strange. Fortunately for us in Greater Cincinnati, we have the labels, the studios, the distributors and the record stores who will not only do that, but will also take great steps to make the artists’ craft readily available to the rest of us.
The record release party, scheduled for Dcember 6th at Mayday was postponed due to snowmageddon. Look for it to be re-scheduled soon. The Phratry Records 4-Band Split 7” is available for download from Bandcamp as well as from the Phratry Records website.