I really don’t like Christmas. I don’t like the consumerism, the songs, the forced jolliness, and the unevitable family stress. If poeple get their highs out of all that, power to them. I just wanna play hermit and connect to the world again when the new year is there. But one thing I DO like about Christmas is Inter Claus.
I can recommend new music to people and make them a bit happier. For the third year in a row, a bunch of naughty kids sent their wishlists to good ol’ Inter Claus, and the old grinch delivered and got them some records they haven’t checked out yet. Probably for the best to let those kids tell you about their gifts, right?
My gift from Inter Claus this year came in the form of Injury Reserve’s By the Time I Get to Phoenix. I’ve admittedly been a bit distant from hip hop this year, and I asked Inter Claus to give me something that might reignite my passion for the genre, as he did with previous recommendations like Loyle Carner’s Yesterday’s Gone, clipping.’s Splendor & Misery, and The Historian Himself’s Gather Bones. If it’s not clear from that list, I love hip hop that is conceptual, experimental, and personal. In a lot of ways, By the Time I Get to Phoenix is all of those.
For the uninitiated, like myself, Injury Reserve formed as an Arizona hip hop trio with two rappers (Stepa J. Groggs and Ritchie with a T) alongside producer Parker Corey. They began releasing music in 2013. Tragically, Stepa J. Groggs passed during the creation of By the Time I Get to Phoenix. The foundation of the album is an improvised DJ set performed by the band in 2019, and the rest of the record is built around it.
There is undoubtedly a spectre of loss that haunts the corners of the album, even if most of it was completed while Groggs was alive. The dark noise, percussionless flows, and freeform structures occasionally make it hard for the listener to find a center or anchor in the soundscapes, which, at least for me, capture the sound of loss and grief. When more conventional forms and hooks appear, like in “SS San Francisco”, the listener is gifted a raft amongst the beautifully cacophonous ocean that is By the Time I Get to Phoenix.
So did Inter Claus deliver on my wishlist? The short answer is a resounding yes. However, because of the density and darkness of the album, it has taken me a few listens to uncover the gift in it, and I think it will take many more spins before I can fully appreciate its mastery. Nonetheless, it is exactly these kinds of layers that I look for in hip hop, and I look forward to the journey of uncovering the multiple facets of this Injury Reserve release over repeat listens.
This year, I’ve gotten back in touch with my roots musically. The first music I self-discovered when I became old enough to realize I had an interest in music was a lot of alt rock and emo bands. I’ve always vibed with emo music since, but the last couple years I have really embraced it and sought it out. So I asked Inter Claus for a nice, healthy helping of something sad that may have slipped past me this year. He delivered with Radura, and boy does it deliver.
Effetto Della Veduta D’Insieme is a beautiful and melancholic little gem from Italian screamo aficionados Radura. This album is a great mix of more full-on screamo with harsh vocals and punchy riffs and a clean, more atmospheric mesh of emo. It does a great job of flipping the switch from one to another at a moment’s notice, like in “Monumento” where it goes from a twinkly and almost jazzy interlude to a quick and energetic end perfectly. “Tutto Il Tempo Che Ho Passato A Non Vedere” is probably the biggest talking point of the album for me. It’s my favorite song on the album, and it’s also the longest and most expressive in my opinion. It’s dynamic and expertly written in the numerous shifts in speed and intensity, and the slow build over the last couple minutes to a kick-ass instrumental section is something I haven’t been able to stop listening to.
I absolutely love albums like this personally. Listening to music in a language you don’t speak in, but still feeling all the emotional weight of the words is an awesome feeling. It shows how connected humans all are as naturally emotional and empathetic creatures, and that even with language being a barrier you can still find understanding in each other’s most innate expressions. Radura do an awesome job of packing Effetto Della Veduta D’Insieme full of a metric ton of feeling, and it’s an incredibly effective album as a result.
Whilst 2021 has been a great year for finding new music, I still felt I could do with a little more. So when I heard that jolly old Inter Claus was handing out gifts, I penned a letter asking for some heavy yet melodic noise. Out of his sack fell HIRAKI from Denmark, with their latest release Stumbling Through The Walls.
On first listen, I panicked. I had to think back to all my misdemeanours throughout the year, because it seemed Inter Claus had served me a steaming pile of horseshit. Stumbling Through The Walls seemed pointlessly brash for the sake of it, without ever really going anywhere. There were some enjoyable moments on first listen, particularly the slower “Proto Skin” with its slower pace, yet still maintaining the intensity of delivery prevalent throughout the rest of the album. But nothing on the album really stood out or excited me on first listen, it appeared Inter Claus was going to let me down.
Despite the disappointment, I still believed in Inter Claus and was determined to give him (and HIRAKI) another chance. I let the album sit for a few days before returning, with subsequent listens starting to help me realise why Inter Claus felt it worthy of recommendation. Eventually the feedback and synth fusion that put me off “Common Fear” made sense, with the incoherent screaming that brings the track to its climax set atop a glorious racket of pure noise providing excitement rather than annoyance. “Wonderhunt” continues HIRAKI’s love of building textures through noise, a little less dissonance in this one making room for more melodic guitars and complimentary industrial drumming. Perhaps aware that this level of noise may become cumbersome at points, the band make sure to take moments of calm and reflection before reestablishing their onslaught, a tactic that appears on many of the latter tracks.
“Blossom Cuts”, like “Proto Skin”, was one of those gateway tracks into the album that sounded ok on first listen. It was another that continued to grow on each listen, its changing dynamics and pace helping to maintain interest. The electronics here are subtly woven into the track as opposed to being thrust in your face, helping to drive the track along. “Peach Lung” and “The Alarmist” were two that failed to win me over, perhaps owing to my reluctance to listen to isolated tracks from the album, preferring to listen to Stumbling Through The Walls as a whole. By the time these final tracks come around, I find my ears switching off a little and my head thinking of what to listen to next. “The Alarmist” in particular seems to stick out on the album, with higher frequencies seemingly pushed to really challenge the listener. As with the rest of the album, HIRAKI should be applauded here for their eagerness to confront their audience, but it is perhaps a confrontation too far for me. Maybe though, with more time, these final two tracks will come to life like the other moments on Stumbling Through The Walls.
Inter Claus taught me a valuable lesson in 2021 and opened my mind a little further. Had I discovered this album on my own, I likely would have turned it off halfway through and forgotten about it for eternity. Had I not returned to it, I would have missed out on some genuinely enjoyable moments, with the excellent blend of electronic and synthetic creating wonderful textures. Whilst Stumbling Through The Walls might not be an album that I will return to frequently, it is certainly one that I am grateful for the introduction to.
Sophistipop? Lounge Prog? What even are Horsey? I had listened to about twenty seconds of Debonair before I knew that this was going to be quite an unconventional album, and starting out with a track called “Sippy Cup” was not the only strong indicator. Whimsical vocals, a blatant disregard for tact, and a greater concern for impact than sticking to any real songwriting conventions. Finding accurate touchpoints to reference when describing Horsey is a real struggle, so take any comparisons that I make with a grain of salt.
With a whimsical output such as this it’s smart to keep things moving along rather quickly to allow the listener to settle into this bizarre world that they’re creating. The first few tracks of Debonair do go by rather quickly, and that only works to make the album sizzle even more. Every aspect of Debonair is honed and calibrated for maximum efficiency and effect. Lyrically, the band reel between nonsensical and heartbreaking and a variety of territory between. “Everyone’s Tongue” feels like Idles if they had exclusively listened to early King Crimson with its quick breaks, frantic vocals, but decidedly punk vibe woven throughout.
The instrumental track “Wharf(i)” quickly glides into “Wharf(ii)” with an elegance that shows the more refined side of Horsey and that they have a knack for being absolutely fantastic at whatever approach they choose. The jazzy mood of “Wharf(ii)” feels elegant and mature; that is before the lyrics enter: ‘I’ve puked on all my ties/ I’ve ruined my disguise/ And I lost my head again.’ Then you remember that this ain’t some classy jazz joint you’ve found yourself in, it’s a fever dream of which you’re a part and have no control over.
Now, on to the absolute best track on the record, “Lagoon”. It’s the microcosm of the album and simply one of the finest songs that I’ve heard this year. At times it reminds me of a more unhinged Moron Police, but without the same level of cohesion. It’s an unmissable song. When I heard it the first time, I think I looped it about 6 times. There are so many parts, nooks, crannies, nuances, and its just so goddamn fun to listen to. Following this is the somber “1070” and it’s pure theater. It’s also lyrically insane, in the best way: ‘Frozen cold for two long weeks/ With the chapsticks and the mink/ Like McDonald’s apple pie/ The girl I lost turns cold and dry.’
As the record closes, we get some absolutely gorgeous tracks, the instrumental “Leaving Song” being quite a layered and emotive standout. King Krule joins them for the final track, “Seahorse”. It’s a mostly morose and somber affair that finds new hues with which Horsey get to fingerpaint the walls, and it’s a fine send off for an album that really defies explanation and description.
Thank you, Inter Claus, for giving me the gift of Horsey. Now, I’m gonna play “Lagoon” on loop until the new year, here’s some cookies.
Who does Santa enjoy listening to the most?
While you ponder that festive conundrum, I can tell you who it should be: Sarin.
The esteemed, musically omniscient Inter Claus has yet to disappoint me with his festive musical dispersal, so naturally I approached him with confidence once again. A year of highs and lows left me seeking something that could bring a sense of joy to my world, while still dashing through my skull with an untamed noise display.
Well, Sarin‘s You Can’t Go Back ticks both flawlessly. Hit play and this atmospheric, doomy behemoth wastes no time: “Cold Open” attacks with a lumbering guitar riff and drums that bludgeon. They precede an equally monstrous vocal appearance that steers proceedings until the midway point, when the wintry chill of clean guitar offers a brief respite before the onslaught resumes. One track down, five big gold ones still to go.
Eight-minute slab “When You Melt” sees piercing feedback and a gradually building rhythm section open up in full force, before the crashing and chaos subside into a shimmering, clean passage and eventual towering riff. They provide ethereal, somewhat more optimistic tones and textures until the carnage reclaims you once more.
This duality of properties – the elevated and the enraged – continues throughout. Whether it’s the more straight-laced stoner doom sensibilities of “Reckoner”, or sprawling QOTSA-esque start to the instrumental rock on “Thick Mire”, there’s enough variety and dynamic to keep you hooked long after the relaxed-to-raucous transitions of “Otherness” lead into barraging closer “Leave Your Body” – with its playful, uplifting leads and plentiful lashings of growling vocals beneath driving bass and guitar.
Having sampled countless musical flavours, the thunderous sounds ring out their bellowing last and you’re undoubtedly left hungry for more. Fortunately, in this case, You Can’t Go Back is a title, not a rule. Turn it on, turn it up, and enjoy a gift that keeps on giving.
Oh, and to satisfy your eager mind/confirm your pun-based aversion… the answer was Elfish Presley.
For this year’s article, I asked the benevolent Inter Claus to gift me with something that would surprise me. You see, my 2021 has been nothing if not a loosely stringed-together chaplet of surprises, both good and bad, so I thought it would be fitting to play into this chain of events at least once more before the year ends. When I received my gift, I thought I was prepared for just about anything, and yet ol’ Saint Nick Inter managed to surprise me, and three times with the same album no less.
Now, how he managed to sneak the first surprise into my stocking isn’t all that… well, surprising in hindsight. I genuinely thought he’d throw the filthiest, most gut-wrenching piece of whatever gnarly metal he could find at me, seeing as that’s what I’m least likely to seek out myself these days. That was my first mistake. Instead, he gave me The Turning Wheel by Spellling (yes, that’s how it’s spelled), and upon my first listen, I was surprised by Chrystia Cabal’s charmingly idiosyncratic voice. If you’re counting, that’s surprise number two.
The third surprise (I bet you’re hating that word with a passion by now) came when I realized how well this album works despite its oftentimes clashing aesthetics. ‘80s art pop in the vein of the inimitable Kate Bush is spliced with experimental takes on modern r’n’b – so far, so good, so unassuming – but there’s always a dark, gothic undercurrent to it. The Turning Wheel also carries heavy strands of folkloric influence upon its proudly unrelenting shoulders. In other words, its stylistic mixture really shouldn’t work, and yet it excels in every possible way. Truly an outstanding record.
So there you have it. Inter Claus has (unsurprisingly) done it again. A merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone!
The madman that is Toni Meese, colloquially known as Inter Claus round these parts, is like some sort of German encyclopedia of music. The type of person who says, ‘Hey mate, have you heard *insert-random-French-post-death-metal-band’s fourth album*? It’s jazzy!‘ And you just nod along, staring at the ground, waiting for any way out of this interaction short of faking a stroke. For some reason, whether out of boredom, masochism, or feeling indebted to this website for taking me on after I left my old one behind, I agreed to this Xmas Everything Is Noise bit. As such, Daddy Inter has dropped Present Tense, the fourth album from FACS, into my stockings.
Chicago’s FACS write a kind of decrepit, run-down post-punk, but I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s the kind of off-putting post-punk mixed with noise and garage rock that’s written with abandoned factories, old houses, and deteriorating warehouses in mind. Ain’t nothing pretty about this abstract album, yet it works. The added use of fluctuating pedal effects and electronics ornaments the surging, straightforward three-piece rock band songwriting approach. Lending these songs with way more atmosphere than was probably necessary; second song “Strawberry Cough” is a great example of this, as it all bleeds together over an robust rhythm section – the album’s finest moment by far.
After finishing Present Tense, their third album in just as many years, I sussed out some other songs of theirs, namely the eerie “Skylarking” and droning “In Time”, and in doing so, one can really map out how they’ve gotten from point A to point B over the last few years. This is a musical discovery that I appreciate; all part of the fun and genius of this segment. Cheers Inter. Anyway, back to the album!
In part dedicated to fellow Chicago noise-rock drummer Alejandro Morales and Tomaga’s Tom Relleen, Present Tense is this dirt-covered, noise-fueled space. One where FACS take their sweet time building that mood. The slow-burning and slower-built “Alone Without” is proof of this dedication to taking time – growling sounds drawing you in, and the eventual pay-off is worth it. Cuts like “General Public” knock you off your feet with the first note, “How To See In The Dark” sounds like a depressing late night drive, and closer “Mirrors” is this propulsive noise-punk cacophony that’s over-driven into the goddamn ground. The whole album just oozes hostility and chaos. Reflecting the world around them? Maybe! Either way, the harshness and cold exterior of Present Tense reveals a talented trio doing things their own way once you peel back the surface layers.
Despite some grinches here and there, the whole team of Everything Is Noise wishes y’all a cozy Christmas, with a bunch of great new records under your tree! Await Inter Claus to be back next year!