Classic Album Review

“WASTEISOLATION” – Black Dresses: A Review

Have you been looking for some angsty electronic noise pop to pass your days? Black Dresses have got you covered. Their 2018 album “WASTEISOLATION” takes listeners on a sexually-charged trip through the duo’s past abuses. Along the way, they create an unnerving soundscape that bashes in listeners’ heads in the best way. The result is a fantastic listening experience to release the frustration of a rough day at work or a nasty breakup.

Music for a Headache

Imagine, if you will, the sound of a buzz saw grinding on a blown-out loudspeaker. That same speaker spews out a heavy, hypnotic beat of indecipherable 8-bit synths and a busted kick drum. That’s about as close as I can get to describing what “WASTEISOLATION” sounds like.

There’s a nice ebb and flow of tension throughout the album, peaking with tracks like “IM EARTH”. It just pounds in your head and tempts you with the chance of calming down as the beat cuts out and back in. And then, the pounding just keeps going, wearing on the listener the longer it continues. This instrumental helps with really getting into the minds of Black Dresses during their abusive relationships in a way that their lyrics just can’t do.

Music video for “IM EARTH” by Black Dresses

Singing for a Vengeance

Complementing this nasty, industrial sound are Devi McCallion and Ada Rook’s contemplations on past abuse. Every song is a venting of frustration with others personally close to them as well as onlookers to their situation. “ETERNAL NAUSEA” and “THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS” are especially powerful complaint towards people who tell them to get over it without having experienced what they’ve experienced.

I’m in the bible God’s favorite (secret) idol
‘Cause the whole sick world loves to smile

Lyrics from “ETERNAL NAUSEA” by Black Dresses

“SLITHER” completely upends the structure of “WASTEISOLATION” with a long monologue narrating a hybrid of autobiography and metaphor. McCallion and Rook address their audience most frankly, spelling out what makes their album’s subject matter so nuanced. They appear to have finally made peace with the idea that they can move on from their past while still acknowledging the scars left by that past.

Rating: 8/10

— DJ Cashew

Music Education

“Twin Fantasy (Mirror to Mirror)”: A Lesson in Production

I’ve been listening back to Will Toledo’s original release of “Twin Fantasy” from 2011 as of late. I wanted to try to figure out why I keep coming back to this amateurish, messy project as opposed to its more polished re-release.

Where 2018’s “Twin Fantasy” (subtitled “Face to Face” for distinction) flows between its softer and more aggressive moments cleanly, there is often very little distinction between these tones on “Mirror to Mirror”. Toledo’s guitar work here is often frantic and uncertain. His backup guitar on tracks like “Beach Life-In-Death” plays like static noise for most of the song. His drumming is almost imperceptible under that static, and his voice often sinks into all the other instrumentation.

A Case Study

And yet, the older recording of “Beach Life-In-Death” is often the one I come back to. As a song that largely grapples with Toledo’s experiences as a young gay man (while homophobic rhetoric was still commonplace in the U.S.), that blurring of sounds seems to capture his anxieties on the matter better than the newer recording. In the last portion of the song, for instance, fragmented vocal clips attack listeners from all sides like they’re being yelled at. Even though the language becomes indecipherable, the stress from being attacked like that again and again accumulates through the song’s cutoff.

That portion of the song is replaced in the “Face to Face” version with a shorter, less human-sounding stutter. The replacement seems to reflect that Toledo has lost some of those fears from 2011. He’s dampened those voices attacking him as he’s matured.

When I listen to 2011’s “Beach Life-In-Death”, I can feel myself in the same position as Toledo was. As someone facing the onslaught of transphobic rhetoric throughout the U.S. now, I feel a stronger connection to his younger self dealing with people who despise him for a harmless part of his identity. Despite the song remaining mostly the same over 7 years, the message relayed to audiences changes with small tweaks in production.

Concluding Thoughts

Even though songs on “Mirror to Mirror” sound more shallow and low-quality, that essence also creates a better impression of what it’s like to be young, queer, and full of both anxieties and hope. The album feels like it was created purely out of self-expression and a need to put his voice out into the world.

“Face to Face”, meanwhile, reflects Toledo’s growth over the ears. He’s reinterpreting what his music used to be into something more confident. He’s no longer singing until his voice cracks, resulting in a lesser sense of urgency to get this music out into the world.

Just because you don’t have access to a studio or the best equipment in the world doesn’t mean you can’t make good music. That lower quality, though, will impact how your music is received. It might be childish, or it could have a youthful innocence and hope. It might sound cheap, or it could sound honest and unscathed by the need to profit off of your music.

Weekly Charts

Top Charts 3/21

1AKAI SOLOSpirit RoamingBackwoodz
2PARANNOULAfter The MagicTopshelf
3TENNISPollenMutually Detrimental/Thirty Tigers
4REDVEILlearn 2 swimSelf-Released
6070 SHAKEYou Can’t Kill MeG.O.O.D./Def Jam
7ACTION BRONSONCocodrillo TurboLoma Vista/Concord
9EMPEROR XThe Lakes Of Zones B And CSelf-Released
11SUMMER ARACHNIDWho Will I Be This Time Next Year?3 Friends
12YOUNG WABOMirage [EP]New College
13ARMAND HAMMERHaramBackwoodz Studioz
14ASIAN GLOWCoverglow pt.1Self-Released
16LAVA LA RUEHi-Fidelity [EP]Marathon
17MAVILaughing So Hard, It HurtsMavi 4 Mayor
18PERRY MAYSUNPainting Naked [EP]Self-Released
19PRETTY SICKMakes Me Sick Makes Me SmileDirty Hit
21SCUBADIVERGodspeed ToSelf-Released
23MAMALARKYPocket FantasyFire Talk
24PILEAll FictionExploding In Sound
26ROBERT GLASPERBlack Radio III: Supreme EditionLoma Vista/Concord
27SHY HIGHGoodbye Delicious [EP]Self-Released
28THEY HATE CHANGEFinally, NewJagjaguwar/Secretly Group
29TOMMY RICHMANAlligatorBoom
30AVIADBelieve [EP]Self-Released
Weekly Charts

Chainsaw Charts 3/21

1MAMMOTH CARAVANIce Cold OblivionSelf-Released
2MYTHRAEUMHalls Of Mythras [EP]M-Theory
3BLINDFOLDED AND LED TO THE WOODSRejecting ObliterationProsthetic
4SQUIDHAMMER“Drowning In Flames (Ft. Kyle Fawley of Digital Remains)” [Single]Self-Released
5SHORES OF NULLThe Loss of BeautySpikerot
6LORNA SHOREPain RemainsCentury Media
7BATTLE BORN“Blood, Fire, Magic, and Steel” [Single]Prosthetic
8DISTANTHeritageCentury Media
9JUDICIARY“Engulfed” [Single]Closed Casket Activities
10COMBATWOUNDEDVETERANThis Is Not An All Erect, All-Red Neon BodyNo Idea
Weekly Charts

Afterhours Charts 3/21

1HALISCAElseware OR: Eating The Snack FantasticPLEASE AND THANK YOU
2KY VOSSThe AfterPlay Alone
4LYZZAMosquitoBig Dada
7WHATEVER THE WEATHERWhatever The WeatherGhostly International
8ULTRAFLEXInfinite WellnessStreet Pulse
Weekly Charts

WKNC — LIVE@Lake Raleigh Series

WKNC is sponsoring the 2023 LIVE@Lake Raleigh series.

Starting in 2018, NC State LIVE and Visit Centennial have presented this series of free concerts at Centennial campus’ Lake Raleigh. This April and May, four shows will take place starting Thursday, April 6.

The concerts are on the shore of Lake Raleigh, at the corner of Main Campus Drive & Campus Shore Drive. There will be food trucks at these shows and free parking. Each show starts at 6 p.m. and gates and food trucks open at 5 p.m.


Thursday, April 6: Orquesta GarDel

  • Genre: Latin big band

Thursday, April 20: Hank, Pattie & the Current

  • Genre: Bluegrass


Thursday, May 4: Laurelyn Dossett

  • Genre: Singer/songwriter

Thursday, May 18: Caique Vidal & Batuque

  • Genre: Afro-Brazilian

For more information on the bands, frequently asked questions, and additional information about the events visit the LIVE@Lake Raleigh website.

Blog Classic Album Review

Pulse Demon: The Cure for Music

Lately I’ve become so bored of music.

I was dully teasing my dopamine doused brain, scrolling through the endless pit of social media looking for the next mild prod of unimportant something to let my eroding attention feed on. I found a conversation about noise music, and someone cited Merzbow’s “Pulse Demon” as a “palate cleanser,” so I decided to listen to it.

There are no ideas in this album.

There is nothing memorable in this album.

There is nothing of independent significance in this album.

There is nothing at all special in this album.

It’s just pure grating noise.

But after five quarters of an hour of nothing, something neat happened. Everything else sounded different. The silence was the same, the songs were the same. But the way I was conditioned to hear it was different.

I decided to put on some of my favorite tunes. Don’t get me wrong, my enjoyment of the music that I listened to afterwards didn’t change, but the way that I heard the music was totally different. I could hear everything. I paid mind to everything. This is how the artist thinks. I could feel each component of the music and how they all connect. I could think about it far more critically.

Pressing play on a track from “Pulse Demon” and skipping to the middle to listen for a few seconds is silly. Playing this for someone who has never heard of it before and only giving them a snippet is ridiculous. It’s like saying “c’mere, lemme show you a clip from this movie,” and it’s the entire movie sped up and condensed into five seconds, complete with cartoonish sound effects.

It’s a comically overwhelming amount of information to push onto someone for such a short period of time. However, the humor is just the method by which we reject the rush of information. Once your mind gets over the hurdle and is able to acclimate to it, it becomes entrancing.

If you relax your eyes, look at the cover art for “Pulse Demon” long enough, and immediately look at something else, it’ll start to warp. The image tricks your eyes. The harsh bends and folds hurt to look at, but once you’re done looking, everything else looks different. This effect is fleeting, but it’s noticeable.

Is this placebo? Is this real? It’s not astounding or groundbreaking, but nonetheless it’s fascinating- and it might be the cure for music.

Short Stories

Drainuary: A Tragedy in Two Parts

Hope, Part 1

On February 7, 2023, I made a commitment to myself and a small group of friends. For the rest of February, the only music I would listen to would be within the “drain gang”. For anyone who doesn’t know, drain gang includes a plethora of artists including Bladee, Ecco2k, Thaiboy Digital, and Yung Lean. The genre is a blend of hyperpop and trap, which many seem to enjoy.

I had never listened to any of these artists prior to that day. Naively, I assumed that this challenge, called “Drainuary” would be a good introduction to the genre. However, drain gang would soon take its toll on my mental health.

Yung Lean performing at The Hoxton in 2016. Photo courtesy of Drew Yorke, under Creative Commons.

The Demise, Part 1

For context, I listen to approximately 6 hours of music every day. It gets me through both the good times and the bad. Music hypes me up for the gym and puts me to sleep. The issue with listening to this much music arises when I can no longer listen to a diverse music palette. Over the first 24 hours of Drainuary, I listened to about six hours of Bladee alone.

This statistic alone broke me. Exactly at that 24 hour mark, I decided to abandon the challenge, knowing that my mental state would only further deteriorate from there. I wasn’t enjoying the music that much, and I only listened to drain gang out of spite. But, this journey was not yet finished.

Hope, Part 2

One friend of mine suggested that I should instead listen to an artist that I actually enjoyed. After searching through my playlists for artists starting with an F (for February), I finally landed on Fiona Apple. Now, I would listen to no music except for that in which Fiona Apple played a part in creating. Although I hadn’t listened to all of her catalogue, I adored her latest album “Fetch The Bolt Cutters”.

Compared to Drainuary, “Fiona February” was a breath of fresh air. Her music spanned a far greater range of emotions than someone like Bladee, and I could assign an identity to each of her albums. As a result, cycling through her music felt far more natural, allowing me to keep with Fiona February for longer into the month.

Fiona Apple at Damrosch Park Aug 8, 2015. Photo courtesy of Sachyn Mital, under Creative Commons.

The Demise, Part 2

Longer is a bit misleading of a term though. After five days of listening to nothing except Fiona Apple, I started having a mental breakdown and needed to use other artists to ground myself again. Granted, I was also dealing with other issues at the time, but Fiona February certainly didn’t help.

What I Learned

Despite what I had expected, intentionally limiting my listening to just one type of music is extremely difficult. I was unable to complete many tasks I can normally do just fine, because I felt like I didn’t have the “right” music playing. Additionally, I found out just how heavily I tend to lean into music as a coping mechanism for whatever I’m dealing with at a given time.

As a result, I felt like I couldn’t process things that arose in my life well, if at all. I don’t know if there’s really a moral or anything of the sort to gleam from this situation. All I know is that I can never actively limit my music listening to one or a couple of artists.

Weekly Charts

Chainsaw Charts 3/14

1MAMMOTH CARAVANIce Cold OblivionSelf-Released
2MYTHRAEUMHalls Of Mythras [EP]M-Theory
3BLINDFOLDED AND LED TO THE WOODSRejecting ObliterationProsthetic
4SQUIDHAMMER“Drowning In Flames (Ft. Kyle Fawley of Digital Remains)” [Single]Self-Released
5SHORES OF NULLThe Loss of BeautyCandlelight
6HALF MESomaArising Empire
7BATTLE BORN“Blood, Fire, Magic, and Steel” [Single]Prosthetic
8DISTANTHeritageCentury Media
9JUDICIARY“Engulfed” [Single]Closed Casket Activities
10COMBATWOUNDEDVETERANThis Is Not An All Erect, All-Red Neon BodyNo Idea

Chainsaw Adds

1JUDICIARYFlesh + BloodClosed Casket Activities
2BONGINATORThe Intergalactic Gorebong of DeathpotBarbaric Brutality
3FROMJOY“docility (feat. PeelingFlesh)” [Single]Self-Released
Weekly Charts

Afterhours Charts 3/14

3MAGDALENA BAYMercurial World DeluxeLuminelle
4PSYCHOANGELpsychosis:angelic [DEMO]Self-Released
5NAKED FLAMESMiracle in TransitDismiss Yourself
6PENDANTHarpSaddle Creek
9ULTRAFLEXInfinite WellnessStreet Pulse
10FLUMEPalacesFuture Classic