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No Age, Nouns

2008 | Label: Sub Pop Records

Part of Sub Pop’s mission is documenting fertile underground-rock scenes, and one of the liveliest of recent years is centered on the L.A. club The Smell. Its house band, more or less, is this arty, chaotic duo. No Age’s music is only a part of their broader package of design and artifact-creation, and like most of the rest of the things they’ve put their name on, it balances accidents and spontaneity with a deliberate, neon-gaudy aesthetic — some of the tracks here are through-composed noise-pop songs, some of them are… more »

Comets On Fire, Blue Cathedral

2004 | Label: Sub Pop Records

One of the members of this Santa Cruz psych-rock crew described the Comets on Fire live experience as a "vision quest." Indeed, the band pursues its transcendent ideal of punkified '60s ballroom bluster like Rocky chasing down a chicken. The myriad signifiers of 'we take it to the next level'-ness are all there: A record called Avatar that came out three years before Avatar, echo on everything, a guy who plays electronics named Noel von Harmonson. 2002's Blue Cathedral is their most convincing statement of trippiness. Singer Ethan Miller has… more »

HEALTH, GET COLOR

2009 | Label: Lovepump United / SC Distribution

Between its glitchy repetitions, frenzied synth rages and impassive vocals, HEALTH's latest has all the symptoms of a mental breakdown. But insanity works for these L.A. noise mongers, who made their name on the barely-tuned barrage of 2007's HEALTH and the assaultive, club-ready Crystal Castles mix that followed. These guys don't write songs so much as conduct sonic onslaughts — they surface at a distance, attack, and disappear into static.

But on Get Color, more so than on HEALTH, those slaughters actually feel like songs — songs with discernible melodies, verses… more »

Sword Heaven, Entrance

2007 | Label: Load Records / The Orchard

Load Records seems to be the label of choice for noise rock duos — witness Lightning Bolt, Mouthus, USAISAMONSTER and now Sword Heaven, two guys from Columbus Ohio that play electronics, horns, drums and… sheet metal. They describe themselves as “dirge noise,” and though their MySpace page lists “Slow Stuff” among their influences, this debut album sounds less like the Swans or the Melvins than that description implies.

The opening track, “Town Hag,” sets the pattern — its hoarse, screamed vocals, and various metallic, subway-skidding sounds come… more »