Everything awe-inspiring and horrifying about Japanese underground music — including ultra-chirpy female vocals, Gojira-scale percussive pummel, and smarter-than-you’ll-ever-be guitartronics — fuses into a hyperactive pop-savvy whole on Melt-Banana’s 11th and latest album, Fetch. Bass-slinging singer Yasuko Onuki and fifth-dimensional guitarist Ichirou Agata’s first studio album in six years (they recorded their lo-fi debut, Speak Squeak Creak, in Steve Albini’s basement studio in 1993) is an equally dazzling and daunting half-hour of infotainment overload. Drummers having come and gone, Onuki and Agata are touring as a duo, with impossible percussion provided by a computer. Avant-karaoke or not, the music’s core remains Onuki’s sweet-and-sour, hectoring motormouth and Agata’s time-hacking, electronically augmented speed-metal architectonics. Like their opening track suggests, Melt-Banana are a candy gun.

Fri., Nov. 1, 8 p.m., 2013


Trash Talk

A hardcore group that might be best known for signing to mishmash hip-hop collective Odd Future’s label in 2012, Trash Talk have been gaining critical recognition and even international success over the course of the past few years. Led by Lee Spielman, the group have worked with the likes of Steve Albini and Keith Morris (Off!/Black Flag) along with collaborations with OF’s Tyler, the Creator. Expect thrashing, expletives, and raucous energy carried off well but without much polish.

Sat., Sept. 28, 8 p.m., 2013


Cloud Nothings

With songs crafted in his Cleveland bedroom, 18-year-old Dylan Baldi collaborated with producer Steve Albini on his record Attack On Memory and swiftly became one of the most hotly-tipped acts of SXSW. Recorded with a thick cloud of depression, Baldi engages in poppy futility rock, making memorable riffs out of tracks titled “Cut You” and “Stay Useless.” The incisive sense of desperation behind his songwriting has gained him comparisons to Sunny Day Real Estate, but behind his melancholy bedroom recordings is the wish fulfillment of every teenage boy with a Nirvana poster.

Tue., March 27, 7:30 p.m., 2012



Powered by homemade amps and snarky attitudes, noise rockers Shellac are best experienced live. Whether it’s vocalist-guitarist Steve Albini’s sardonic invective and brutal attacks on his guitar (which he straps onto his belt like a weapon) or his foil, singer-bassist Bob Weston (who welcomes questions from the audience that are usually as mundane as the things Albini condemns), the trio offers no dull moments live. And even if you resist the frontmen’s personas, there’s always drummer Todd Trainer, who looks like a possessed man abusing his kit as a means of exorcism. That actually might be the best sight of all.

Mon., Oct. 3, 8 p.m.; Tue., Oct. 4, 8 p.m., 2011


Joan of Arc

Now that Tim Kinsella has some space between him and his much-lauded reunion with emo archetypes Cap’n Jazz, he’s returned to recording with sensitive art rockers Joan of Arc. The foursome, now also featuring Cap’n Jazz’s Victor Villarreal, released a box set of 10 of their releases on cassette(?!) last year and recently raised $8,500 to record their forthcoming album, Oh Brother, with Steve Albini. With Pillars & Tongues, Caithlin De Marrais, and the Last Days.

Tue., Feb. 1, 7 p.m., 2011


Scout Niblett

This flaxen-haired English rose is Steve Albini’s muse, for better and for worse. On this year’s The Calcination of Scout Niblett (an Albini joint, as always), Niblett mines favored tropes of astrological damnation and fated love with a honeyed Cat Power croon, though the scorching instrumentation sounds more like In Utero. Set to a minimal backdrop of guitar fuzz and propulsive drums, Niblett’s raw, effusive voice channels all those born under punches and a really bad sign, sweetly concentrating on the dark honesty of it all. With Holy Sons.

Wed., Oct. 6, 6:30 p.m., 2010



Cranky Chicago agit-rock homebodies Shellac have been making regular New York stops for the past three years, thanks to the annual All Tomorrow’s Parties festival upstate. Vigilant in moving at their own pace, they haven’t released an album since 2007’s excellent Excellent Italian Greyhound, itself a follow-up to 1000 Hurts, released in 2000(!), but their live shows haven’t suffered thanks to some showbiz savoir faire. Vocalist-guitarist Steve Albini (who attaches his instrument to his belt) and bassist Bob Weston (who uses a strap) like to field questions from the audience between songs, so get your baseball trivia ready. With heavy-metal cellist Helen Money.

Tue., Sept. 7, 8 p.m., 2010



New York’s most Lynchian summer camp returns: The second annual All Tomorrow’s Parties festival returns to the serene Kutshers Country Club in Monticello, and the counselors are as wild as ever. This year, the carousing, freewheeling, surreally intimate environment is curated by the Flaming Lips, who are using this opportunity to big-up and get drunk with such pop psychedelia pals as Sufjan Stevens, Animal Collective, the Jesus Lizard, Shellac, Deerhoof, Boredoms—and you. David Cross handpicked the comedy stage lineup, which should halfway explain the glazed visage of Eugene Mirman, and Shellac frontman Steve Albini will host a poker tourney. There will be crud.

Sept. 11-12, 2009


ATP Rocks the Catskills

‘Twelve dollars?!”

It’s another high-school day in 1991, and my best friend and I are poring over concert listings for the venerated Austin, Texas, concert hall Liberty Lunch, excited by a twin bill of Dinosaur Jr. and My Bloody Valentine, yet crestfallen by a ticket price neither of us can afford on our allowances. So it was agonizing to read the Rolling Stone review a week later, which declared MBV loud enough to wake the dead. From then on, we had to learn second- and thirdhand how their mythology grew with every stop on the Loveless tour, just as a furiously strummed E chord on “You Made Me Realize” swelled from mere interlude to half-hour epic with teeth-rattling decibel levels. These shows were less a musical experience than a physical one. We took solace in the fact that we would see the band next time through, when they finished up their follow-up to Loveless, an album fans still anticipate to this day.

Seventeen years on, My Bloody Valentine re-formed to play (and exceed) the legend during the early part of Monday morning, capping the first installment of what will hopefully become an annual iteration of Britain’s venerated All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in the Catskills. While tickets for the Friday-to-Sunday affair far exceeded those bygone $12 days (that amount now just gets you a gyro platter; the total’s around $250, plus accommodations), the festival offers a throwback of another kind: a festival with no corporate sponsorship, no advertising banners, no tables of Boost Mobile or Camel with piles of marketing brochures and tchotchkes littering the premises. Instead, we get a three-day weekend not unlike a Jewish family retreat in Monticello, held at Kutsher’s Country Club, which oddly echoes the trappings of the resort in Dirty Dancing.

But if the physical location is stuck in the early ’60s, the musical content over the course of these three days is similarly suspended in the ’90s, with the yellow school buses shuttling attendees between hotels wholly cementing that high-school sensation. Friday night’s lineup is curated by Don’t Look Back productions (responsible for last year’s Sonic Youth restaging of Daydream Nation) and features re-formed groups performing entire albums, such as Tortoise’s Millions Now Living Will Never Die and Meat Puppets II. Situated in the Stardust Ballroom, the dark venue, topped by what looks like the Statue of Liberty’s crown, radiates out from the stage in concentric circular tiers, with the most promising sightlines of any venue in recent memory. While neither Bardo Pond’s Lapse nor Thurston Moore’s Psychic Hearts rightly deserve “classic” status, tonight both artists break free from such strictures and deliver straight-ahead yet incandescent sets.

Simultaneously, a screening room (hosted by Criterion Collection) plays early indie films like Allison Anders’s Border Radio, Jim Jarmusch’s Down by Law, and Richard Linklater’s Slacker, the latter’s aleatoric story line of the collisions between unrelated people and surreal events presaging the weekend’s underlying structure of chaos. A second stage, this one dark and made of concentric squares, turns Friday night over to comedians riffing on the accommodations: Opener Joe Derosa deems Kutsher’s where “homeless Jews have their bar mitzvahs,” while headliner Patton Oswalt believes the dilapidated fixtures to have been rubbed down with ham. As the night crawls on, the grounds begin to take on the appearance of yet another movie resort: the one in The Shining, with its mazes of dark, moldering corridors roped off.

By Saturday morning, the town is already bereft of Styrofoam coolers and Jameson bottles. Germany’s Harmonia, another old band re-formed for the occasion, offer an afternoon set in the pitch black of the second stage, combining bright MIDI effects with more turbid analog drum machines, gently updating the electronic ambient form they helped father in the 1970s against a backdrop of old band photos. Meanwhile, the Executive Card Room, another on-site attraction (in addition to golf courses, paddle boats, and trapped-in-amber bars like the Sportsman and Deep End), only shuts down for a few hours on Saturday night so that “The House,” a/k/a Steve Albini, can play a show with his band, Shellac; barely an hour after their dutiful set concludes, Albini is back dealing at the table, relieving drunken sots of their poker chips.

The dominant template of the festival (beyond featuring bands who could’ve headlined a similar festival a decade previous) involves three-guitar monoliths like Polvo, Mogwai, and Mercury Rev, so as to bolster slight songs with pummeling dissonance. But a few acts do more with less. With only bass and drums, Saturday-night headliners Lightning Bolt provide contrast with both a similar duo (the lumbering, glowering Om) and Friday-night three-guitar headliner Built to Spill; while BTS reached their rapture via frontman Doug Martsch—delivering his skyward solos with closed eyes and body unmoving—Lighting Bolt are a furious blur. Tucked into a corner on the floor of the main stage, the duo (who could barely be glimpsed save for a concave security mirror mounted above them) are all kinetic energy, heat, and flash, teeming bodies whipping about them, all toward ecstatic release.

By Sunday, that day’s lone hip-hop entry, EPMD, even gets on the backwards-looking tip, hollering “Let’s keep it 1991!” before cutting into their hits from that year. A few hours on, Bob Mould’s set is decidedly unsentimental: Revisiting his Hüsker Dü back catalog, his band tears into decades-old songs as if they had just finished bashing them out in a practice space, while Dinosaur Jr. romps through their near-hits with palpable glee and at deafening volume, setting the table for their old tourmates.

An extended silence sets the packed Stardust Ballroom on edge. One of the site’s main benefits is the lack of a decibel limit; the walls of speakers loom ominous. The moment My Bloody Valentine saunter on, it’s as if the intervening years never happened: Kevin Shields and band remain as blurry and androgynous as they seemed in their videos from 120 Minutes. And that sound . . . it’s of a physicality beyond belief. I won’t be using adjectives like “face-melting” and “head-expanding” lightly ever again. If anything, the feedback the band looses and channels during the 20 or so minutes of “You Made Me Realize” conjures a leviathan, wholly beyond human scale, nonchalantly making vertebrae, innards, and skulls vibrate throughout the room. Behind the din, the band is a tad rusty, but whatever: The chance to experience MBV after nearly 20 years feels not merely priceless, but ageless.


Die! Die! Die!’s Promises, Promises

“So much for blue skies! What about the future?” Thus New Zealand’s young punks, Die! Die! Die!, fling exhortations back at a preacher who’s told them, “You must believe!” They aren’t really asking, but they also aren’t echoing Johnny Rotten, that cunning London Irish drop-out, caterwauling “No-o-o/Fu-u-t-yahh” in a faux-cockney parody of a muezzin calling the faithful to prayer a quarter-century before 9/11. No, it’s not quite the same, because outrages and disasters do take their places in the landscape. So even Die! Die! Die!, with their shrieky little name and shrieky little songs (tattooed in ears by the phonograph needles of Andrew Wilson’s voice and guitar), find themselves pausing long enough to explain, quite reasonably, “Well sir, this winter, I cannot believe.” “Blue Skies” is the last song on Die! Die! Die!’s second album, Promises, Promises. Last year’s Steve Albini–recorded, self-titled debut’s flying shards of impulsive/compulsive encounters were caught by walls thrown up, of tracks tightened till they imploded (10 songs, in just over 20 minutes). But now, on the Shayne Carter–produced Promises, walls are pushed out as inner space-junk expands; shards reappear as pieces of Wilson’s personal blue skies, of old hopes and dreams. Shattered, scattered voice and guitar can’t help planting some bizarre memory garden of l-u-v. But the eloquent guts of Lachlan Anderson’s bass will never digest such seeds so easily, and drummer Michael Prain’s Keith Moon-style soloing-as-accompaniment dents craters in an everyday maze, where Wilson and “You!” grapple in reflective gear.

Die! Die! Die! play the Music Hall of Williamsburg March 29 and Highline Ballroom March 30.