Hello and welcome to this week’s Foundation Vinyl newsletter! As ever, we have some cracking new records to discuss, and this is the line-up:
- Featured New Arrivals from Stingray, Institute, Felsenmirror, and Warkrusher
- Hardcore Is Where The Home Is, featuring Lagrimas and Habak
- Shows and Tours
- Coming Soon, including some cracking new releases from Agipunk, Contraszt!, Discos Enfermos, La Vida Es Un Mus Discos, and Quality Control HQ
Featured New Arrivals
‘A morbid reminder, on the city’s skyline, can’t see justice, in this lifetime’ (Inner City)
From the darkly foreboding instrumental opener, Controversy, you sense that Stingray’s debut full-length will leave no survivors. But nothing quite prepares you for the brilliantly executed brutality that follows. Savagely roared vocals are in barbarous synchronicity with metallic guitars (the opening riff to Trench Demon is utterly immense) and a bludgeoning rhythm section. Searingly heavy groove-laden breakdowns and wildly surging solos ensure that the ferocity never relents. But this is not empty, performative anger, but rather a fiercely visceral denunciation of the malformed priorities that are hollowing out our city. Lyrically, Stingray deal primarily in apocalyptic, allusive imagery to explore themes of social injustice. The album builds to its utterly crushing finale as it dissects the slow violence inflicted on London’s working-class communities that culminated in the Grenfell Tower fire, and the bleakly predictable attempts of those in power to subsequently deny their culpability.
Institute return with their fizzing fourth LP and continue to inventively explore an eclectic musical palette that draws in equal measure on anarcho-punk, post-punk, and hardcore traditions.
Moses Brown drawls sardonically in tandem with languidly energetic guitars laced with beguiling melodies. The band’s DIY aesthetic permeates throughout the record and lo-fi yet swaggering flourishes nod towards influences from Brown’s solo project, Peace de Résistance. Lyrically, the album is typically acerbic as the band address themes ranging from the impact of reactionary common sense, Where’s It Go (‘if you need some help, they say give ‘em hell, if you need a hand, bootstraps are your only friend’), and the privileging of developer profits over people in City (‘building buildings for no one, other than to line a pocket green’), to the echo chambers that fuel political polarisation in Uncle Sam’s Hate (‘about the steal, or a woman’s choice, or what media the cabal employs’).
The debut LP of Portland’s Felsenmirror is a hauntingly beautiful blackened doom metal exploration of the stages of grief, and the process of forging an acceptance that enables life to continue and renew.
Taking Charles Baudelaire’s poem, The Death Of Lovers, as their starting point, Felsenmirror build an album that seamlessly ebbs and flows to mirror the struggles of dealing with grief. Anguished, howled vocals interplay with bleakly sombre guitars, underpinned by a rhythm section of subtle, fluid power. The atmosphere of loss and reflection is further heightened by flourishes of deeply evocative electric acoustic guitar and melancholic violin, while almost spectral passages of spoken word are mournfully intertwined throughout. An album of genuinely cathartic force.
‘Insatiable greed, unending violence, Exploitation at the highest degree, Both beast and man held in enslavement, Put to the sword to appease their lust’ (Prelude To Decay)
The logo and artwork leave you in little doubt of what to expect when the needle drops on this, Warkrusher’s debut LP. And there are far worse sources of inspiration than Bolt Thrower, but when these influences are worn so proudly, there is a heavy onus to deliver. And have no doubt, deliver they absolutely do. Hailing from Montreal, the band take the menacingly ominous groove of Realm of Chaos-era Bolt Thrower, but further amplify the hardcore punk underpinnings to assume an even more prominent role. The result is an album that ferociously fuses crushing death metal with a more swaggering crust punk to superb effect, as tracks such as Silence and Shadows vividly exemplify. Lyrically, the album creates a darkly post-apocalyptic world of environmental catastrophe and ceaseless war.
Hardcore Is Where The Home Is
One of the pleasures of doing a regular newsletter that I underestimated has been the opportunity to sit down and think more explicitly about the different facets of music. Not just to enjoy the immediate hit, but to think about it in wider terms. And one of the aspects that has struck me is what the actual purpose of a split release is. I must admit I have always been slightly cynical of the motivations behind some – there seems a certain expediency at play.
Yet in more recent years, while expedient examples remain, I have seen an increasing number of split releases where the bands and labels recognise that such projects offer the scope to realise a much more unified vision – one that entwines the participating bands much more intrinsically. The 2019 Myteri and Procrastinate release on Alerta Antifascista Records is an excellent recent example, and even more recently the Habak and Lagrimas joint release on Persistent Vision is a brilliant illustration of what a well-executed split release can artistically achieve. So, what makes it such a successful realisation?
First up, both bands have born their sound from the same initial kernel of inspiration, but then evolved this initial influence into a sonic expression that while not entirely disconnected, is certainly recognisably distinctive. In the case of Habak and Lagrimas both bands are rooted in an emotional hardcore that is infused in equal measure with influences drawn from crust and post- metal. Each band blend viscerally cathartic hardcore with passages of haunting melody, and harsh, roared vocals with sombrely engaging spoken word. However, they harness these shared attributes in quite different ways. Lagrimas deal in fiercely crafted, tightly honed eruptions, while Habak are more expansive in allowing the ebbs and flows of ambient melody to shape their songs.
Second up, both bands have a shared socio-political purpose. They are deeply imbued with a DIY ethos, and both are explicitly political projects that focus on examining the impacts of current economic systems (and their political enforcement on people’s everyday lives). What lends even further weight to this shared purpose is that both bands adopt very different lyrical approaches. Habak, perhaps in keeping with their broader musical sweep, favour more poetic allusive expression, deploying the spectral imagery of an ever-expanding desert to illustrate the rapacious expansion of capitalist rationalities into every corner of people’s existence. In contrast, Lagrimas favour a more direct, matter-of-fact language that lends a fierce velocity to their exploration of the impact of urban financialisation, gentrification, and economic exploitation on working-class communities in Los Angeles.
And it is the themes that Lagrimas tackle that I’d like to further touch on, linking as they do with some of the same issues that this week’s new arrivals from Stingray and Institute look to address in their songs Inner City and City respectively. Living in South London it has become transparently clear how urban development, and in particular housing, has become subservient to the needs of real estate capital and a central construct of the governing hegemony. This has manifested itself in the privileging of developer interests, wholesale privatisation of public land, and people being displaced from their own communities. Even where communities have successfully resisted, residents have endured over a decade of uncertainty as they have courageously fought off attempts by councils (who purportedly represent them) to demolish their homes.
Now, while the elements of any city’s development are specific to it (Anna Minton’s Big Capital: Who is London For? and City of Quartz: Excavating The Future In Los Angeles by Mike Davis are decent starting points for London and Los Angeles), there are also readily identifiable themes that connect lived experiences and patterns of urban development across major cities. It is these core underlying forces that Lagrimas’ lyrical approach bring so effectively to life, and they can be as readily applied to London as to their home city. It began with a process of stigmatisation of working-class housing that was purpose built in the heart of London and framing these communities as undeserving of such location (Illusions of Success) and the wholesale privatisation of much social housing, which has seen the return of an exploitative rental market (Mandatory Overtime) that is wildly disconnected from the economic realities of much modern work. The result is people being forced from their own communities (I Can’t Afford It) with the inevitable insecurity and instability that this introduces to people’s lives, and already socio-economically marginalised communities (No Resources) bear the brunt of this ‘regeneration’. As Stingray examine in Inner City, this slow violence of resident stigmatisation and relentless cost-cutting sowed the seeds for the Grenfell Tower fire in West London that resulted in 72 deaths on 14th June 2017.
With those in power (and aspiring to it) mired in a failed consensus that treats housing as a financial instrument as opposed to a social good, it is great to see hardcore bands willing to confront the issue. Songs rarely change the world, but they can force us to question what we see and, hopefully, increase our understanding of what we need to work to change.
Shows and Tours
This section lays no claims to being a definitive listing! It is simply gigs coming up in London that catch my eye and that I think people who read this newsletter might be interested in. I will always try and highlight where a show forms part of a wider UK tour.
21st October Stiff Meds, Layback, Churchgoers, Ikhrah, Catastrophe (Moor Beer Vaults / plus Leeds show 20/10)
21st October Commoner, P.I.G, Under The Ashes (The Bird’s Nest)
24th October Institute, Glue, Island of Love, Hellscape (The Shacklewell Arms)
26th October World Peace, Xiao, Trading Hands plus more (New Cross Inn / UK Tour)
28th October Home Front, Subdued, Rifle (New River Studios / UK Tour)
11th November Diaz Brothers, Toronto Blessings, The Charlamagnes, Dinosaur Skull (Hope & Anchor / UK Tour)
12th November Filth Is Eternal plus support (New Cross Inn)
13th November Madball, Ironed Out, Rash Decision, False Reality (The Underworld / UK Tour)
18th November Axegrinder, Civilised Society?, Zero Again plus more (New Cross Inn)
19th November Chain Whip plus support (New River Studios / UK Tour)
21st November Slapshot, Death Before Dishonor plus more (New Cross Inn / UK Tour)
24th November Bob Mould plus support (The Garage / UK Tour)
24th November Another Subculture Weekender (Spanners / Churchgoers, Hellish Torment, PC World, Rubber, Skitter)
25th November Another Subculture Weekender (Ivy House / including Gimic, Hygeine, Morreadoras, Plastics, Sniffany & The Nits)
9th December The Grey, Aeir, Under The Ashes (The Bird’s Nest)
12th-14th January Reality Unfolds Fest (New Cross Inn / including Fuming Mouth, Genocide Pact, Iron Deficiency plus many more)
18th January Samiam plus support (New Cross Inn)
24th February Fiddlehead, MS Paint, Wrong Man (The Garage / UK Tour)
1st – 3rd March Damage Is Done IV (Various Venues / including Fugitive, Quarantine, and Illusions plus many more to be announced)
Astio ‘Bocche Stanche’ 12-inch (Agipunk)
Hellshock ‘Self-Titled’ 12-inch (Agipunk)
Hez ‘Panamaniacs’ 12-inch (Discos Enfermos)
Katarsi ‘Self-Titled’ 12-inch (Discos Enfermos)
Life Scars ‘Pęknięte Serca’ 12-inch (Contraszt!)
Mazandaran ‘Self-Titled’ 7-inch (Quality Control HQ)
Möney ‘Punk Demo’ 7-inch (Discos Enfermos)
Misery ‘The Early Years’ 12-inch (Agipunk)
Mock Execution ‘Circle of Madness’ 7-inch (LVEUM)
Stiff Meds ‘Tales From The Slab’ 12-inch (Quality Control HQ)
Total Nada ‘II’ 7-inch (Discos Enfermos)