Links: Independent music earnings, Pakistan’s music industry, answering recruiters, Spray.


  • And just ‘cos I like it, here’s Spray’s “Hit The Applause Light”


Reviews: Pass-Ages, Embrace The Crisis, Tombaugh Regio (2016).


PASS-AGES: “Taken Underneath”/“Materialize Me” — when I first heard this in August it got points for putting both “neofolk” and “trip hop” as tags on the same record (I found it looking through the former). I can see what they mean, though far more the second than the first. And it’s possible someone told them, but the former tag is now missing. It’s much more synthy than that, though the tune in my head always seems to have an acoustic guitar on it. The B-side is a blocky synthesizer bassline with ethereal vocals over that works better than you might expect.


EMBRACE THE CRISIS: Black Heart — Foreboding synthpop. I was trying not to just compare it to Depeche Mode, then it kept making me go “oh, come on!” But it does it well, and I suppose it’s near-impossible to avoid them in this field. The sounds are clear and fresh (and didn’t seem to bash me with brick wall limiter harshness), the vocals are marvellous, beautiful and powerful. The songs are strong, and I was listing favourites as I played it and got most of the record. This is one to bop around to and one to sit down and appreciate. Above: “Liar” and “Intimacy” at their debut gig in March, which are pretty representative. Also check the SoundCloud.


TOMBAUGH REGIO: “2.7k”, “A5”, — two new singles and an older mini-album. “2.7k” is jangly indie pop on guitar, keyboard and drums that made me think of Mercury Rev for a moment. Beatlesish start to the vocal melody. Produced to home demo standard, but the song is fantastic. “A5” is heavier on the keyboards. It’s not as immediate as “27k”, but a pounder when it gets going. You’ll play it repeatedly. There was also a 2014 EP Borderland Creatures, not presently available, which is several more tracks of the same sort of thing. This is sublime. Good lord, get these guys into a proper studio.

Links: Soviet techno, music as a weapon, archive your damn tapes, oh Earache no.


  • Гимн СССР, techno remix. (And the light jazz-funk version.)

  • From Nickelback to Sesame Street: how music is used to battle crime and fight wars. Why do they never pull out Metal Machine Music or Whitehouse.

  • Archive your damn tapes.

  • This is below the standard to go in a review post. “Mexico” by Danny Worsnop is actually on the Earache label. Remember Earache, the grindcore label of choice in the ’80s and ’90s? … yeah. Lite bro-country blues rock with a video that features using your bikini model girlfriend’s arse to hold your beer is the quintessence of punk rock in the year of our lord 1995. I lasted forty-five seconds, see how you do. HT Dave Lang.

Ganser: relentlessness by guitar.


Ganser formed in Chicago in late 2014, when Nadia (bass) and Alicia (keyboards) started working on musical ideas together. They speak of themselves as post-punk, but there’s a whole indie rock morass they partake of — this is way broader than your standard post-punk revival.

Nadia describes This Feels Like Living as “the first release that we have all collaborated on.” Taut, clean indie guitar rock, sparse but weighty; the songs tend to go in compelling straight lines. Machine music by a guitar band; it’s one thing for a song to chug, another for the engine to start and push you forward with the proper relentlessness. The single is the first track, Pyrrhic Victory, representative of the EP.

Before this EP were the singles “Audrey” (February 2016) and “Smelling Salts” (July 2015) and the EP Less (January 2015). Even as the newest thing is their favourite (of course!), the older ones are no slouches and every bit worth your time. “Audrey” brings the keyboards out to play, as does “Losing Light” (B-side of “Smelling Salts”).

They put out Less soon after they started; you can hear the themes getting under way. (I tried listing particular favourites and listed most of the EP.) They started well and got better; I suggest the new EP and watching closely for whatever comes next.


Rocknerd is now fully SSL-enabled! How to do this yourself.

See that green lock up there? Rocknerd is now served over SSL, with a certificate from Let’s Encrypt. The old insecure addresses should send you to the secure versions. Please try on all your gadgets and let me know of any problems, with as much detail as you can.

(Why SSL? Because what you browse is nobody else’s business. And because Google will like it better. And Theresa May won’t.)

This guide assumes you are comfortable with the Debian/Ubuntu command line. The stuff below is literally what I did just now.

James (whose server it is) already had certbot installed, but I didn’t know this and set it up by hand anyway. It’s trivial.

Our server is running Debian and I have root. Working from this page, I ran the following:

git clone
cd certbot
sudo ./letsencrypt-auto</tt>

The script did an apt-get update;apt-get upgrade, worked out it was running on Apache, detected all the domains our Apache served and offered to generate a cert for all of them. I just told it to do the aliases of for now. It did so, generated and installed the cert. That’s it, I had a working SSL site! It gave me SSLLabs test URLs for and, which both rated the site “A”. So there.

(It also asks you if you want to auto-redirect all http:// to https:// — tell it yes.)

Let’s Encrypt certs are short-term. I made sure my cert was auto-renewed by putting this in /etc/cron.d/letsencrypt-rocknerd (checks weekly, renews the cert if it’s under 30 days from expiry):

30 2 * * 1 root /home/sites/letsencrypt/letsencrypt-auto renew >>/home/sites/log/

Next was WordPress itself.

1. Go to Settings->General Settings and set your WordPress Address and Site Address to start https:// .

2. Add this to wp-config.php, to force logins and admin to SSL:

define('FORCE_SSL_ADMIN', true);

3. If you’re still getting a mixed-content warning from your site, go to the Inspector (hit F12) in Firefox or Chrome and see what’s being served by http:// — in my case a couple of links in a widget. Fix those, clear WP-Super-Cache and try again.

If you want to SSL your WordPress and don’t understand the above, Google “SSL WordPress” for many more pointy-clicky guides. If you’ve SSLed your own WordPress with a plugin or similar, please comment.

Reviews: Tetrolugosi, Makoto Kino, A.D. Mana, Foretaste (2016).


tetrolugosi-iiTETROLUGOSI: Tetrolugosi II — sp00py music for goths that isn’t at all goth rock, done on assorted keyboards, theremin and bass guitar. Cheesy as hell, but nevertheless pretty good and fun with it. This is a most enjoyable listen. Above: “All The Monsters” and “Under The Full Moon”, which are representative.


makoto-kino-eternal-lossMAKOTO KINO: Eternal Loss — not in fact Sailor Jupiter but Mexican musician Francisco Cabrera Celio. Instrumental atmospheric pieces composed of loops of found sounds and a DX-100, compiled over a few years. Not drone or noise, but drone pop or noise pop. This works really well.


ad-mana-stA.D. MANA: A.D. Mana (Dog Days) — shouty electro-industrial drawing heavily on early Cure. A bit bedroom; the mix sounds good on headphones and not so good through speakers. “Take Hold” is arranged sparsely enough to be its own dub mix, and it’s only 2:44. “Down The Wire” is catchy and develops well. “Honour” should probably have been the A-side.



FORETASTE: Space Echoes, “Lost In Space” (BOREDOMproduct) — a new wave synthpop album with a ’50s science fiction book theme — but without just going novelty. The music starts at basic pop and goes into wider realms of orchestration, and more than a little that’s for sitting down and listening. The single “Lost In Space” (above) establishes the themes nicely. My favourites: “First Symptoms”, “P.U.L.S.E.”


Links: CBGB awning for sale; Ableton Live; the cucumber organ.


  • The CBGB awning is up for auction! Expect some pharma bro to pay $25,000 or so. It’s not the “original” as claimed, by the way — it’s a 2004 repainting, the third or fourth in its line.

  • The Story of Ableton Live: Berlin techno scenesters creating something to help them do their own stuff live.

  • An organ with cucumbers for keys. Created as advertising for Hendrick’s Gin. It’s set up so the cucumbers are touch-sensitive. Made by WonderMakr, who have a pile of this stuff.

Synthpop: Aidan Casserly, Kriistal Ann, Dress Your Headphones (2015, 2016).

So many really good records piled up here to tell you about, but between finishing the damned book and a cold this week, I haven’t been able to manage coherent thought. Hopefully these will tempt you to click and listen. Maybe I should pretend I’m writing about wires.


aidan-casserly-incubusAIDAN CASSERLY: Incubus (Werkstatt) — the Irish musician, not the Californian comics artist. Lush and accomplished cinematic synthpop. I’m hearing a pile of now-obscure early Mute bands in this and trying to identify who the hell his voice reminds me of. He has the key ingredient of synthpop down, though, i.e., it’s actually all about the voice. Particular favourites: “Here Come The Dolls” (a synthpop showcase for the duet vocals with Kriistal Ann; the saxophone works too), “Funeral for Two” (the pieces shouldn’t go together but they do), “Slow”, “The Void”. He has a catalogue back to 2009, both on his own and with Empire State Human, and a Soundcloud.


kristal-ann-cultural-bleedingKRIISTAL ANN: Cultural Bleeding (Wave) — last year’s album from Kriistal Ann, who sings on a couple of the tracks on the Aidan Casserly album up there. This is strong, dark and harsh synthpop with emphasis on the songs; the synth is minimised but not excessively minimal. My favourites: “Fall Of Misery”, “Un Étrange Baiser”, “Fading Lights”, “Antigone”. Above: “Deadly Insight”, “Antigone”. There’s a nice interview here. You may also enjoy Liquid State by Mode In Gliany with Kriistal Ann.



DRESS YOUR HEADPHONES: Net Pair, My Growing FaultsNet Pair is the variety of indie pop that starts in motorik-sounding major-key Krautrocky influence. I particularly liked the instrumental intro “Repaint”, the one after it “S K V R N S K” (not quite in the same style but seems to form a matching set), “Ivories” and “Melting” (endearing indie pop of the heart). My Growing Faults was released the same day; it’s clearly the same guy, but starts rather noisier and more abrasive and continues that way. This is a pretty good pair.

The Pop Group: Y (1979), For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder? (1980).

The Pop Group are a singularity of post-punk awesomeness. They formed in Bristol in 1977 (not 1978, they insist) having learnt the existence of punk rock and going “holy shit, people like us.” But rather than starting at rock’n’roll, they threw in the funk stuff they were into. Nick Cave famously noted their huge influence on the Birthday Party.


The songs were built from a bass and drum rhythm, then Mark Stewart shouting over the top, then evolving a structure. For the first album, Y, they had the good sense to get Dennis Bovell in to produce, turning this layered structure into a dub wonderland. Y didn’t sell, but they got signed to Rough Trade for a single, “We Are All Prostitutes”, and an album, For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder?


The band split in 1981 and went in all directions, forming Pigbag, Maximum Joy and Rip Rig & Panic. Their manager, Dick O’Dell, started the Y label featuring the first two bands. Mark Stewart later showed up fronting Mark Stewart & the Maffia.


I finally heard both albums all through courtesy Michael Corey, who I spent 1993 hanging out with. We were attempting to form a band, hampered by my inability to play and his inability to get his shit together. He did lend me these marvellous records, though, which I promptly taped and played the tape of a whole lot. In the spirit of that C-90, here’s the first album and here’s (most of) the second.


They reformed in 2010 and have done three albums since that are a goddamn delight. They also have a website and you should buy everything you can, if you can. Also up on Spotify.

edit: there’s also a pile of old and new stuff on their Bandcamp.

Lou Reed: Metal Machine Music (1975).

I had an acquaintance that had an eight track player bolted to his bedroom ceiling. Metal Machine Music was in it and it played non-stop, 24-7 for months. If he needed to listen to his stereo, he played his regular record player and turned it up loud to be heard over the munching away of MMM. He did this for years, on endless loop (what 8 Tracks do) forever.



Lou Reed released this masterpiece of the speed freak’s art in 1975, between Sally Can’t Dance and Coney Island Baby, which were rock’n’roll records comprising conventional songs, and, following Transformer in 1972 and Berlin in 1973, he had what might be called a “career.”

An album that is literally an hour of guitar feedback, arbitrarily chopped into four 16-minute segments and released as a double LP, did not go down particularly well with his label, RCA, nor with anyone else really. The Lou Reed fans who bought it on name value returned it as defective — obviously a pressing plant mistake. RCA withdrew it from sale after three weeks.

Except there were the people who did like it. It was the screeching nihilism of American punk rock in its purest form. Anyone who just wanted noise to forget, this was their bag. Per Lester Bangs:

If you ever thought feedback was the best thing that ever happened to the guitar, well, Lou just got rid of the guitars.

Reed himself stood by it until the day he died: “the greatest and longest guitar solo ever”. He had actually tried to get it put out by RCA Red Seal, the classical division, but couldn’t talk them into it. Before the Velvet Underground, John Cale had worked with LaMonte Young on drone music of this type, and this had gone into such as “Sister Ray”. Whose essential value proposition is this sort of headcleaning noise, except Metal Machine Music doesn’t bother putting it to a song.

Reed seems to have been right. The record’s been fabulously influential on horrible noise music since. Many industrial noisemakers credit it directly as an influence. ‘Cos, y’know, anyone could do this, but Lou did. Just think: if someone had thought of playing this at the same time as Pet Sounds, we could have had the Jesus and Mary Chain in 1975.

The noise heads rehabilitated its reputation and you can buy a CD remaster today. Or play it on Spotify, if you want to give Reed’s estate a fraction of a penny. Here in the cyberpunk come true future, it feels like easy listening.

Here for your convenience is the whole album, and if you want the authentic 1975 experience of side four’s locked groove, here’s four hours of it.