Dance The Mutation is a monthly column from Ears to Feed contributor Jesse Locke, highlighting the most exciting new music releases and archival reissues that come across his radar. Dance the Mutation was formerly a radio show on KPISS FM, and before that it was a song by Simply Saucer, the band that Jesse wrote an entire book about.
Psychic Weapons – “All On Fire” (Video by Jesse Yules)
This month’s column begins with a premiere from Toronto post-punk unit Psychic Weapons, led by Derek Westerholm of The Creeping Nobodies. Their video for “All On Fire”, the band’s first single from an upcoming album, was created by visual artist Jesse Yules. Setting its POV from the window of a moving train car, the song careens through a B.C. landscape on the brink of an unnatural disaster with burning houses, Sasquatch sightings, and hovering UFOs. Westerholm’s sprechgesang delivery suits the video’s frantic pace, as he oscillates between unhinged, UJ3RK5-style sermons and severe coughing fits.
Les Rallizes Dénudé – The OZ Tapes (Temporal Drift)
After 50 years, the infamous Japanese psych band Les Rallizes Dénudés have finally authorized their first official vinyl reissue, aiming to replace the bootlegs that have circulated for decades. Following guitarist/vocalist Takashi Mizutani’s death in 2019, surviving members have reunited as The Last One Musique to issue a series of remastered archival releases. The OZ Tapes is their inaugural effort: a remastered live recording of LRD from Tokyo underground venue OZ’s farewell event in 1972. I might be experiencing musical Stockholm Syndrome for the scuzzy, blown-out jams with ultra-repetitive bass lines that the band is known for, because these cleaned up tapes took a second to wrap my head around. In their moments of restraint, LRD sound like a relatively straightforward late ’60s rock combo. Yet by the time they reach the 11-minute “Vertigo otherwise My Conviction / 眩暈”, Mizutani’s pained howl and squealing riffs reveal the night assassins in all of their glory.
Winged Wheel – No Island (12XU)
The bar for remote collaborations has been raised sky high with this one. Winged Wheel’s debut album brings together four subterranean lifers – Fred Thomas (Idle Ray, Tyvek), Cory Plump (Spray Paint, Expensive Shit), Whitney Johnson (Matchess, Damiana), and Matthew Rolin (Powers/Rolin Duo). All four have extensive discographies, and they’ve come together to create something new entirely. Variations on Klaus Dinger’s hammer beat set the foundation, before the members layer swirling guitar leads over waves of distortion, slippery synths, and garbled samples, all guided by Johnson’s serene vocals. The bent riffs of “Drinking With Flies” and closer “Passive But Jag” are a blissfully endless bummer.
Pharaons – Evil World (Supreme Echo)
Thrash-metal trio Pharaons were formed on the African island nation of Madagascar. On the band’s new reissue collecting recordings from 1989 to 1991, their songs barrel ahead with brutal riffs, monstrous growled vocals, and pummelling blast beats. Only “Metal Uprising” switches up the formula, with an acoustic interlude punctuated by samples of French TV news reports. Half of the album’s songs were reportedly rejected by Pharaons’ record label in the 1980s due to their radical lyrics, but they’re all included here. Rallying against war, government corruption, and “The Paedophilia from Vatican”, they sound just as righteously pissed off today.
Julie Doiron and Dany Placard – Julie & Dany (Simone Records)
Every edition of this column needs to include one member of Eric’s Trip. Sorry, I don’t make the rules. Less than six months after Julie Doiron’s triumphant comeback album, she returns for a collaborative LP with Dany Placard. Singing in French and English, their lo-fi recordings hearken back to her beloved ’90s Moncton band. The duo’s quiet acoustic duets here are undeniably pretty, and “Jean-Talon Market” is a classic in Julie’s first-person confessional style. Yet the album is most exciting when they kick up the dust on downer psych jams like “Mayo” and “Tomate”, sounding like a francophone Brian Jonestown Massacre.
Naja Naja – Naja Naja (Wharf Cat / Bié Records)
I’m always grateful to Wharf Cat Records for introducing me to new releases from China, like the excellent debut EP from Beijing duo Naja Naja. Drifting somewhere between dreamy indie-rock, gothic post-punk, and slow-mo motorik psych, they cover a lot of territory in just six songs. Bassist Gou Gou and guitarist Yuhao swap vocal duties throughout, or avoid them entirely on the fuzzy instrumental “Sunset Sopping Centre.” The anti-consumer rap “New Toy” shares DNA with BODEGA, but a song like “Dong Dong” doesn’t sound like anyone besides Naja Naja. When Gou Gou repeats the lyrics “dance with the drag queen / every night,” it sounds like a quiet, KISS-esque mantra for the party of her dreams.
Evan Cartwright – bit by bit (Idée Fixe)
Evan Cartwright is best known as a drummer, playing with acts as varied as U.S. Girls, Cola, and the Brodie West Quintet. As a solo artist, he sings with a gentle, plainspoken voice in the style of Arthur Russell or Alabaster dePlume. Cartwright’s debut 2019 EP Don’t was an understated gem passed among fans like a secret key. His full-length follow-up bit by bit sounds widescreen in comparison, accenting sparse acoustic songs with orchestral flourishes, snatches of conversation, and field samples of softly clanging church bells. Moody synth pads shift into focus on songs like the nine-minute instrumental title track, but the overall experience feels like sitting next to Cartwright in the park as he quietly serenades you on a warm spring day.
Raphy – You Can Have A Piece Of My Soul For The Lows (Bruiser Brigade)
Detroit’s Bruiser Brigade were first namechecked in a 2011 song by Danny Brown. Over the past decade, the underground hip-hop crew have stepped up their productivity to the point of releasing six solo projects and a label-spanning compilation last year alone. Raphy is the in-house producer for many of these titles, with enough music up his sleeves that he’s taken to releasing instrumental beat tapes as a PWYC download on Bandcamp. The 16 songs of You Can Have A Piece Of My Soul For The Lows unspool like a grimy cassette baking in the sun, with soulful vocal samples melting like a plastic soldier under a magnifying glass.
JOYFULTALK – Familiar Science (Constellation)
JOYFULTALK’s third album for Constellation is a dense patchwork of jazz gestures and fried electronic flourishes. Familiar Science features founding member Jay Crocker joined by an ensemble of longtime collaborators: dual drummers Chris Dadge and Eric Hamelin, alto saxophonist/flutist Nicola Miller, and samples of the late tenor sax player Dan Meichel (a key figure in the improvised music community of Calgary, where Crocker lived before relocating to Crousetown, Nova Scotia). Miller trills around tricky time signatures on standout “Ballad In 9”, while Crocker’s wandering guitar is a frequent highlight, especially when conversing with a clattering drum solo on “Stop Freaking Out!”
Fred Moten, Brandon López, Gerald Cleaver – Moten/López/Cleaver (Reading Group)
In the aftermath of 2020’s George Floyd Rebellion, poet and cultural theorist Fred Moten was joined by double bassist Brandon López and drummer Gerald Cleaver for the trio’s first improvised studio session. On eight-minute opener, “the abolition of art, the abolition of freedom, the abolition of you and me”, Moten gets right down to it, acknowledging the stakes of creating radical works of art while recognizing that they alone are not enough to make a difference in the world. “the faerie ornithology” is a slow-moving musical horrorshow, López rhythmically sawing his bass strings in time with Cleaver’s sparse clatter. They keep it ominously minimal as Moten delivers a measured but intense sermon on the Black art not included in cultural canons, and how this is reflected in physical acts of violence: “You don’t get to not see, motherfucker, but what happens when you act like you do? / Somebody Black and poor can’t breathe.” An essential listen, incandescent with rage.