High-Functioning Flesh

It seems a complete mystery to me over how the phrase high-functioning is always perceived, or used in negative connotations. You would think that you were able to describe so many more items or activities in society as high-functioning in the way they are able to perform or fulfil that purpose to an exceptional degree. That tends not to be the case. While you could say that autism and Asperger’s could be fulfilling their role as a disability with flying colours, in making people’s considerably harder for them in a social and personal capacity, understandably we take that as an unfortunate and often horrific set of circumstances. Sadly, it is still often stigmatised, purely by those who don’t understand or are afraid of things not of the norm. But they are all human beings at the end of the day. They all have the same right to life as you, me or anyone else. They simply have to live life in a different or more difficult manner. Genetics is a strange thing. Which maybe makes the task of decoding what High-Functioning Flesh means all the more trickier. Is it labelling people who are capable of extraordinary prowess? Or is it that our own skin or being within ourselves, is a social disability or disease we all struggle with without realising? This is all speculative of course, but judging by their title of Human Remains, forthcoming from their second album, there’s an inkling or two you can take from it. Amongst the wave of troupes reinstating the old blood of industrial’s heyday, this duo from Los Angeles melds a warm, squelchy sequence of keys against the cold mechanical precision of programmed beats, whilst they dictate through the discourse of harmonised aggression. Defiantly old-school in practice, they take the scathing disenchantment of punk’s youth, piece it together with sheet metal from industrial’s proposed collapse of society, and drop a tab of techno to bring it to life, but not overclocking the construct. Human Remains sounds slightly more refined from a production standpoint compared to their previous works, smoother-sounding audio flowing from the keys at the inset, as a bouncy bass hookline interspersed with brighter stabs of synth create an optimistic tone in the track. The continual looping and manipulation of a voice recording and eventual introduction of tightly compressed percussion through out the first minute carry on this ideal, right up until the vocals break through. Then all projected optimism is stripped clean away, given the ghoulish subject matter of the lyrics. It feels like a battle between the expanding vibrant glow, characteristic to the building layers of analogue synths, and the harsh monotone truth of the spoken word, acting as the shroud of darkness, effectively warped by the phasing and pitch-shifting placed upon it. How this transforms the mood from a beautifully blended, 80’s nuanced discotheque floorfiller into a greyed cold wave manifestation of dread and sociopathy, is astonishing and more than a little uncomfortable. But my presumption is that what makes High-Functioning Flesh all the more of a spectacle. Their music is more than just a renaissance period for electronic musicians. It’s a wake-up call. Rather than seamlessly weaving the timeless ambience of three decades past with a fierce beat, they’re taking paranoia, fear and loathing and turning them into a occasionally understated, brutal sensory attack to shatter the illusion of day-by-day modern life. From what I’ve seen and heard, these guys are one of the most cleverly calculated punk bands in the business right now.

Human Remains will be released as a single on 26th February (also my birthday) and is taken from their yet to be titled second album forthcoming on Dais Records. Whilst you keep a look out for that, you’ll be pleased to know they are prolific, with their previous EP and demo available from their own Bandcamp page and first album Definite Structures is available from Dais Records own store. Most respectable music retailers still apply.

Go tell them how their music makes you feel:


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Bewilderment I’ve always thought is an unusual word. I can’t exactly explain why, but I’ve never felt overly compelled to use it in general conversation. According to the Oxford English dictionary, the definition of the word bewilderment is the state of being puzzled or confused at events that have transpired. Out of context, if you happen to be followed by an identity known only to you as Stalin, you can only be bewildered as to how this occurrence came about in the first place. After all, Stalin, the man himself, is one of the most divisive figures in modern history, as well as a hip-hop artist also from California apparently. So, just who or what is Stalin? That too is a subject of bewilderment. Although the facts are they are a rock band, there’s at least two of them and they have an interest in cult, stretching to occult paraphernalia, a box to define their sound or style doesn’t quite seem to fit them. Elements of bands in sparse amounts you can claim make up the fibre of their already distinct musical output, but aside from a background reminiscent of the school of grunge, they really are a beast of a unique breed. Whether progressive doom backed by eerie chimes in the distance, sludge dirges with a wistful piano break or the quiet-loud waiting game leading in a wave of devastation, Stalin does it with a beautiful yet slightly twisted flair that few bands are capable of. This is none more apparent in their possibly most accessible work California, in combination with the NSFW music video. Bass becomes a big focal point in the track, grinding the surface of sound into an uneasy meeting between yourself and a presence of unsettling intentions. Guitar opens the dialogue, a rich, almost lamenting series of notes expressing a tone of remorse, but not overbearingly so, kind of hinting that there may be an agenda more untoward than let on. Impressions from one of the most original vocal styles I’ve heard in years suggest that too, playing from sinister whispers, to soulful innocence, to crooning with a hint of deviance, to full-blooded screams, even foul-mouthed spoken word gets a look-in, all from the mouthpiece of an incredible talent. With a trance-like drum pattern, all of these pieces slot together into a tenebrous, evocative exhibition, leaving the listener on tenterhooks the entire time. The ending of four furious tapping and skin-bashing bursts into just ambience, the pounding of toms and yelling thought-provoking slogans is surprisingly powerful, not to mention relatively irregular in this kind of music. Unashamedly different in execution by unnervingly talented musicians, Stalin are not just a band, but an experience, an experience that keeps you guessing and rewards perseverance with a blackened take on reinventing the modern rock formula. Music for the masses they say? You’re damn right it is! Masses that have to hear this band.

Stalin are kind enough to be offering the majority of their recorded output on Bandcamp on a pay-what-you-want basis, which I’d recommend go looking at and supporting them. My words might make a little more sense if you watch the music video, which I’ll remind you is NSFW. You were warned. Oh, and they have a website to go look at too. Make sure you do that.

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Moxy And The Influence

Kinda without wanting to get tangled up in the vast web and warzone that gender politics and feminism have evolved into, when it comes to rock music, women seem to have had it tougher because the industry put a lot of emphasis on marketing sexuality over talent. In smaller pockets of the industry, that can still be a problem, you’d probably need a few hands to count the amount of bands in which this happens to. But the ambitions of those determined, undeniably talented women, wanting to make a living doing what they love, keep tearing at the fence of adversity and the flow of females, not just as vocalists, but kickass guitarists, bassists and drummers is becoming more of a mainstay in up-and-coming bands. In and amongst those jostling for greater widespread attention and rightly so is the youthful spirit of California’s Moxy And The Influence. Sitting somewhere between the shoulder blades of Paramore and Halestorm, but raised on a healthy diet of glam and some of the greatest rock bands to ever pick up an instrument, the three ladies and one gentleman that make up the band have already received glittering acclaim and plaudits from local media outlets on their unforgettable melodic hard rock battle cries. Despite only being a band for two years and having an average age of 18, what staggers me most is how seasoned and polished they already sound for a band that could still be considered in its infancy. Since their inception, there’s been a steady trickle of singles and material, all packed with the charisma, fire and passion that makes rock ‘n’ roll function and personally, none fulfil that more for me than the punk-fuelled statement of empowerment that is Alive. Though lyrics lead me to believe that this deals with not being comfortable in a relationship, it feels more like acknowledging yourself and that you as an individual has purpose in this world, which despite sorrow breeding poetry, the optimism and positivity is incredibly refreshing to hear. There’s an attitude and sass to vocalist Moxy Anne that becomes far more emphatic against the well-oiled engine of the fast but weighted buzzsaw chords, bass that vibrates deep through your bones and drums that dictate the form of attack. Yet while the chorus is a strong mantra for believing in yourself, there’s an unexpected feistiness in the near-screams of a later bridge and a damn impressive, smoking hot guitar solo that follows it. Moxy And The Influence are similar in nature to that of wildcats: in no way to be underestimated and certifiably no hope of being tamed. A band of superbly talented musicians, very well versed in rock ‘n’ roll with the earworm masterstroke and the potential to climb very high in the musical food chain.

Their Alive EP can be bought from their website in a physical capacity, or from most respectable music retailers if you want the immediacy of digital. They have plenty of other merch available too if you wanna look at all the other things you could be buying.

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Ghost Idols

Hundreds, probably thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of people on this planet claim that they have seen a ghost in their lifetime. But despite footage and images suggesting there may indeed be paranormal activity in this world, the subject still very much stays open for debate. People make fortunes out of it, however sincere or exploitative they may be. The jury is out for me personally. Some claims look more authentic than others, but until I kinda see or experience it for myself, my guess is as good as yours. Hello fate, I didn’t see you there! But whether you want to dispute the authenticity of LA’s Ghost Idols however, you’d be entirely foolhardy to do so. They are an anomaly, but purely because their sound doesn’t fulfil a ticklist for given genre conventions. There are nuances of many sounds absorbed into their matter, perhaps so many that the original sources are all but unrecognisable. Here’s what I can tell you. At its truest centre, Ghost Idols are at best a super heavy indie band, at times pouring enough fuzz and distortion onto a guitar to drown out a building demolition, while keeping the poppy vocal melodies and harmonies present, injected with force straight into your brain. Every second of a Ghost Idols song never misses a beat, there is always something switching or shifting around to demand your attention. Take Heathens from their self-titled EP from 2013. There’s a tirade of thunderous drums, meshing together with roughened chords and optimistic vocal tones that would sit well in Bloc Party’s back pocket, later going into a hardcore style breakdown harbouring a infectious kick pedal pattern, full buckshot-impact sludge guitar accompanying it. There’s even a lovely, understated little solo atop both bass and drums going hell for leather And if they aren’t switching up the texture of the sound, then they constantly switch the time signatures too. Literally every note has meaning and purpose on an unprecedented level. Ghost Idols, unlike ghosts themselves, are something you should fully believe in, as their adventurous sound is so versatile and dynamic, they should be heightened from underground dwellings to mainstream music acceptance.

Their self-titled EP is currently available on a pay-what-you-want basis for a digital copy, or a reasonable sum for a physical copy, as well as their most recent single Monsoons which can be bought on vinyl, all on their Bandcamp page. These guys are also recording an album right now, so any money given to them will be appreciated. They have a killer sound, they deserve it.


Children Of Nova

I’ll be honest, my astrophysics aren’t very far advanced so when it comes to knowing what a nova is, I had no real clue despite having an overall fondness for the word for years but yet having some idea what a supernova is… I’ve never dropped it into everyday conversation and I haven’t needed to. A nova anyway is the thermonuclear detonation of the surface of a white dwarf which causes a brightening of the star as a whole. In simplistic terms, a huge expulsion of energy from a star makes it brighter at night. So if children can be birthed from this astrological phenomena, and they are capable of playing tremendous progressive rock that resonates with such wonderful radiance and burning passion, then why haven’t more come to this planet? In any case, Children Of Nova are settled in the domain that Coheed And Cambria reign over, but in a more contemplative light that their slower-burning songwriting is far more suited to. It retains the same magnitude of soaring guitar work, just with a more impressive vocal dexterity and a tone that strays just south of intense to stay relaxing. Harmonics can drift into sombre stretches and the throttle can be thumped however over the course of 2012’s Impossible Landscape, the ride remains a mostly gentle series of peaks that can be jagged on the way down. Kaleido, the second track in, certainly starts calmly before skyrocketing into some cosmos-reaching guitar playing, whether in perfect harmonic unison or as light and heavy compatriots. It also serves as the real introduction to the astounding vocal range of singer Teo Lopez, whose performance on this album propels the already astonishing musicianship to such magnificent heights. To stumble across a band that drives home such enchanting, heartfelt progressive rock is a true rarity and yet it is the bands like Children of Nova that could sit for months, years or even decades before their star bursts into light for the world to see. Nonetheless, the discovery alone is fantastical.

The band are currently on an indefinite hiatus unfortunately, so it’s unknown whether they’ll make a return, but at least both albums Impossible Landscape and 2009’s The Complexity Of Light can still be bought from their Bandcamp page, their webstore and at most respectable music retailers.


DC Fallout

For some in the world, the prospect of a nuclear war was one of the most terrifying things imaginable. If you understand the science behind it and realise that the quickly destabilising political climate we find ourselves in, could still herald the near annihilation of the human race today, it is still very much a frightening time to be alive. So obviously you are going to have voices in the face of opposition, and history has found that a lot of those voices express their disgust and dissatisfaction through the brutally honest medium that is punk rock. While hailing from Los Angeles, DC Fallout suggests the aftermath of political suicide from the nation’s capital, and they voice their frustrations through breakneck bursts of seething melodic punk anthems. America is experiencing an existental crisis of sorts, and these four gentlemen know it, running barbed truth after truth on all aspects of social commentary through gung-ho guitar shredding that dives into some meaty breakdowns, consitently excellent rapid-fire delivery and an unmistakable voice of reason and righteousness you cannot ignore. Some of their songs have a decidedly more upbeat delivery, but Dominoes is one of their more serious calls for revolution, touching on a more melancholy beginning, before drums count in the full-speed force of mighty guitars and a message to inspire a generation. Punk in its purest form is protest, and DC Fallout are gifted in their ability to convey their opinions so poetically and with such speed, skill and impact, it seems criminal that they resonate with so many, yet so few not know of them.

Objector from 2013, the Serf’s Up EP from 2011 and Retreat! from 2010 are all available in physical and digital format from DC Fallout’s Bandcamp page, for a respectable asking price.


Orange Tulip Conspiracy

Paranoia is something that seems to grip hold of a large portion of us at times, like a leash round the neck. The constant feeling of unease that somebody is watching us, or that there is a much larger agenda happening right underneath our noses. This state of mental chaos can be the birthing place of conspiracies, tales that hold weight as to why events transpired in the manner they did, more often than not focused around pivotal moment in history. As far as a band named Orange Tulip Conspiracy goes however, the jury may be out on that one. For this Los Angeles five-piece, their work remains focused on a deeply involving instrumental cinematic experience, drawing influences from Balkan folk music, lounge jazz, classical music and some heavier aspects of progressive rock at times. It seems odd yet rather fitting when you have a rich, smoky ambience of expertly woven strings, every now and again plunging into total dread from gigantic amounts of distortion entwined with the guitar. Luckily across the six and a half minutes of Fall Creek, that monster hides its ugly head. This stays as an extended jam of cultural magnificence, hypnotic in drums maintaining a steady rhythm the entire time whilst strings and saxophone recount the tales of days gone by. The atmosphere is sitting around a fire, in a tent that towers above you, whilst the haze emitted slowly envelops those listening into a trance of total relaxation. The conspiracy I guess then is this: how can five Los Angeles musicians create the sound of traditional Eastern Europe so perfectly and yet very few have experienced their astonishing craftsmanship? Keep an eye on those orange tulips, who knows what other wonders they have in store.

The band now go under the name of Atomic Ape, and apparently their album Swarm sounds a lot like a spy thriller. Fancy. Anyway, both that and Orange Tulip Conspiracy can be bought on the Atomic Ape Bandcamp page in digital and physical formats.



Coupling seems to be very much the main life objective, the desire to find company so you don’t spend your years on this planet alone. For some people that means friendship, or a relationship, sometimes both. In the case of Los Angeles electro punk legends Babyland, the precursor to Continues’ one man tour de force, they shared a long lasting friendship and a business relationship that lasted over a 20 year career. Daniel Gatto, the voice of Babyland, since 2009 went in a different direction, and toned down the jittery synth strokes, industrial strength percussion and throat-run-raw shouting, into a smoother, refined synth pop operation. The same impassioned delivery is there, verging on almost desperation at times, and the same production values remain, sticking heavily with an array of modular synths and drum machines, but the formula has been distilled into far more digestible nuggets of electronica gold. Love On The Run, by far my favourite song of this week, is an exceptional seance of Bronski Beat’s Smalltown Boy, bar extra eerie, chilling synth lines and Jimmy Somerville’s falsetto range swapped for the spirit of punk in a spoken poetry rehearsal. But there’s a groove that the coincidental inspiration lacks that Continues makes up for in the precision engineered synths and drum pattern working in unison that edges it out very slightly. VERY, very slightly. At times, the 2012 self-titled debut recalls The Cure, but if Robert Smith abandoned the gloom of goth to make perfect electronica an elder crowd swore they remembered, and that is a compliment of the highest order. For a one man show, Continues is utterly fantastic, pure and simple.

The 2012 debut can be found on Mattress Records’ Bandcamp and at most respectable music retailers, for a reasonable sum. Also, for your own amusement, Love On The Run was edited into a loop of Noel Fielding dancing in The Mighty Boosh, if that seems like something you might be entertained by. Go YouTube it.