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Band/Artist Profile Concert Preview

Unwound Returns to Cat’s Cradle After Over Two Decades

After over 20 years of stasis, post-hardcore band Unwound is back from the dead with a 2024 tour.

The band will touch down in Carrboro, North Carolina March 22 at the legendary Cat’s Cradle alongside noise rock band Cherubs.

Unwound went on indefinite hiatus after their 2001 release “Leaves Turn Inside You,” the “Unwound album that ended all Unwound albums.”

Cover for “Leaves Turn Inside You” by Unwound

The band announced their reunion in 2022 following the 2020 death of bassist Vern Rumsey. Jared Warren of Melvins, Karp and Big Business stepped in to take over Rumsey’s role.

In February 2023, the band played their first show in over two decades at Seattle’s Showbox.

In November of the same year, they announced a 2024 tour featuring five cities on the east coast.

The tour kicks off March 20 in Atlanta before stopping in Knoxville for the city’s annual Big Ears Festival March 21. Unwound will perform in Carrboro March 22 before moving on to D.C. and Jersey City.

Rewound

“When we put Unwound on the shelf in 2002, we never thought we’d return to the project,” said drummer Sara Lund in a 2022 press release.

Following the announcement of Unwound’s 2023 reunion tour, demand for ticket sales was so high that the band added 10 additional dates.

“Starting over again is a rebellious act against our failure,” said founder Justin Trosper.

Cover for “You Bite My Tongue” by Unwound

Unwound emerged as a stylistic diversion from the band’s original project, Giant Henry, formed in 1988 while the members were still in high school.

“The first era of Giant Henry was sillier — making fun of grunge music, but we actually sounded grungy,” said Trosper in an interview with Tobi Vail. Unwound, Trosper explained, drew inspiration from Melvins, Black Flag, Nirvana and Flipper.

For those unfamiliar with Unwound’s sound, it’s best described as the impact point between smoky atmosphere and punk angst. The virile edge of Black Flag meets the cigarette-tinged vapor of Nirvana.

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Band/Artist Profile Concert Preview

All-Female Japanese Punk Band Coming to Cat’s Cradle

Named after an Osaka love hotel, Otoboke Beaver is an exuberant four-piece punk band from Kyoto, Japan.

The band kicked off their 2024 North American tour back in February, and will perform at Carrboro’s legendary Cat’s Cradle March 26.

If you’re not familiar with Otoboke Beaver (a crime, honestly), there’s still time. This totally rocking band will make for an unforgettable concert experience.

Wild Garage Rock

Self-described as a “Japanese girls ‘knock out or pound cake’ band,” Otoboke Beaver formed in 2009 after the members met at a college music society.

They released their first demo album in 2011 and a live album in 2012, both of which gained traction among Japanese audiences.

Otoboke Beaver began touring internationally in 2016, and have since garnered critical acclaim from numerous sources, including Dave Grohl, Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano, Tom Moreno, and numerous others.

Cover for “SUPER CHAMPON ス​ー​パ​ー​チ​ャ​ン​ポ​ン” by Otoboke Beaver

Otoboke Beaver’s garage punk style regularly flirts with madness. However, amid discordant arrangements of guitar and vocals, there’s a perceptible grand design.

Spontaneity is controlled and masterfully cultivated to create a pervading sense of unity among the band’s members.

The band’s description of “knock out or pound cake” is surprisingly apt; their sound constantly alternates between vicious, unbridled energy and idyllic ebullience.

Cover for “Love Is Short” by Otoboke Beaver

Subject matter comes directly from the band members themselves, drawing from romantic misadventures, grievances with chauvinism, sexual desire and the monotony of the daily grind.

I have no time to spend for you
seeking for a one-night stand, old fart has come
abso-f–king-lutely you’re out of question
so full-of-yourself old dirty fart

shut up
shut up
shut up and Don’t look down on me!

“Dirty old fart is waiting for my reaction” – Otoboke Beaver
Cover for “‘yobantoite mojo​’​/​’don’t call me MOJO'” by Otoboke Beaver

While the band doesn’t consider themselves to be distinctly feminist, a group of Japanese women loudly and irreverently declaring their desires in a white and male-dominated genre is nothing short of groundbreaking.

Otoboke Beaver’s latest album, “Super Champon,” came out in 2022, and all I have to say is this: if the band’s setlist draws at all from this release, audiences are in for a riotous time.

Song Highlights

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Band/Artist Profile Classic Album Review

High-Functioning Flesh: The Industrial Duo You Didn’t Know You Needed

Darkness meets drum machine with Los Angeles electro-punk duo High-Functioning Flesh.

With a sound somewhere between DEVO, Molchat Doma and Portion Control, High-Functioning Flesh is an industrial hall essential.

Much like the word “flesh,” the band’s music is carnal, tactile and vivid.

And as per usual, I found them entirely by accident.

Expanses of “The Flesh”

Often abbreviated to HFF, the band emerged in Los Angeles after Susan Subtract and Gregory Vand attended a Youth Code show.

The band’s debut album, “A Unity of Miseries – A Misery of Unities” came out on DKA Records in 2014. The album struck a chord in the industry with its evocative style inspired by sci-fi, body horror and archetypal punk angst

According to the band, their work “seeks to revive us all from our spectacle-induced coma,” presenting a sobering sound to rend the veil of capitalist monotony.

Cover for “A Unity of Miseries – A Misery of Unities” by High-Functioning Flesh

HFF cites Cabaret Voltaire and Portion Control as major stylistic influences, though the duo certainly brings their own qualities to the craft through elaborate instrumentation and production effects.

“A Unity of Miseries – A Misery of Unities” is a dynamic album, highly tactile and hypnotically raucous through its sprawls of synth, drum and fried vocals. Its industrial quality is heavy-handed and walloping like metal slamming against metal.

HFF’s sophomore album, “Definite Structures,” came out in May 2016 through Dais Records. The album reflects the progression of the band’s electro-industrial style, leaning into further experimentation with sound layering and auditory effects. The album is a kaleidoscope, evoking the brutalist edge of Skinny Puppy.

Cover for “Definite Structures” by High-Functioning Flesh

Following this release, the band dropped the single “Human Remains” through the same label. The single features two tracks, “Human Remains” and “Heightened State.”

For this release, the band turned to mellower vocals with less distortion, leaning back into the style explored with their first album.

HFF’s most recent release, “Culture Cut,” came out in 2017. A blind comparison of “Culture Cut” against “Human Remains” would almost suggest the existence of two bands.

Cover for “Culture Cut” by High-Functioning Flesh

“Culture Cut” clearly draws more from the same inspirations as “Definite Structures.”

According to Dais Records, each new release highlights the band’s evoltion “from a handful of lo-fi flashback demos to aggressively realized synth-punk dance floor anthems.”

And Dais Records is wholly correct. The music of High-Functioning Flesh belongs on the dancefloor for leather and PVC-clad youths to gyrate to.

Song Highlights

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Band/Artist Profile Classic Album Review

Artist Spotlight: Zulu

I love heavy music. And as someone who is far from a genre purist, I love heavy music that experiments with the “hardcore” label. Music that challenges what hardcore can be is extremely special to me.

I’ve talked about bands that subvert the archetype of “hardcore” before. In November of 2023, I covered Agabas, a band that blends the chaos of metal with jazz.

This week, I’m covering a band that not only fuses genres, but is doing groundbreaking work to elevate the Black community in the hardcore scene.

The Future of Hardcore

Zulu is a black-fronted hardcore punk band from Los Angeles. Formed by multi-instrumentalist Anaiah Lei, the band takes a leaf out of the powerviolence playbook, presenting a raw and aggressive distillation of hardcore punk.

What makes Zulu different from other hardcore acts, however, are the samples of funk, soul, reggae and spoken word woven into their music.

Cover for “Our Day Will Come” by Zulu

For example, the track “For Sista Humphrey” features a heavy guitar-drum duo and guttural vocals before abruptly transitioning into a soft soul melody. In “52 Fatal Strikes,” rage gives way to serenity as a brief classical instrumental jumps in.

While the contrast sounds jarring, it works.

By injecting black-pioneered genres into their music, Zulu imbues their sound with a distinct and unwavering identity. This is especially important when one considers that Zulu’s lyricism is all about elevating Blackness and empowering Black individuals.

You see tension, aggression

Only anger

I see peace

Community

Black joy is divinity

“Our Day is Now” – Zulu

However, as Lei said in an interview with Kerrang! in 2022, the band’s connection to Black culture shouldn’t stand as their only defining feature.

“…when it comes to bringing in a band where all of us are Black, that is an important thing but also people make it a lot bigger than it is,” Lei said. “I guess only because it’s not the norm, and that is what’s the issue. It should be very normal.”

Zulu’s central aim, according to Lei, is to experiment freely within the scene and create a space for others to do the same.

“The one thing I wanted to do with this project was be myself entirely,” Lei said.

Discography

Zulu released their first EP, “Our Day Will Come,” in 2019. The following year, they released “My People…Hold On.”

Both EPs feature a melange of rigorous hardcore interspersed with samples from speeches, spoken word, rap, soul music and other historically Black genres.

Zulu’s first full-length album, “A New Tomorrow,” came out in 2023. The album features several singles the band released in 2022 and early 2023.

Cover for “My People…Hold On” by Zulu

The album’s opening track, “Africa,” features a bright classical arrangement before the proceeding track, “For Sista Humphrey,” fades in with a hellish guitar and vocals. A similar pattern continues throughout the album, with hardcore tracks contrasted with peaceful, slow-moving melodies.

Thematically, this poses an interesting narrative. As the band’s lyricism suggests, this contrast illustrates the dual narratives surrounding Blackness: the imposition of an aggressive, violent nature versus the reality of peace, community and creativity.

I’m looking forward to seeing the direction of Zulu’s future projects and seeing them live, since I missed their last live show.

Recommended Tracks

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Band/Artist Profile Classic Album Review

5 Amazing Goth Bands with BIack Representation

The goth scene has a diversity problem. Most alternative music scenes, if I’m being honest, have a diversity problem.

While the contemporary state of the alternative scene is certainly facilitating some much-needed change, it’s important to recognize that people of color — specifically, black people — have always been part of the scene, and always will.

Here are five awesome goth bands that feature black musicians, proving that despite popular assumption, goth isn’t white.

Scary Black

A beloved artist of mine and one who I’ve spun on-air several times before, Scary Black is orchestrated by the brilliant mind of Albie Mason, a purveyor of “introverted darkwave.”

Based in Louisville, Kentucky, Scary Black redefines the term “southern gothic.”

Cover for “Live at Fascination Street” by Scary Black

With corpse-cold melodies, vampiric lyrics and a cultivated air of foreboding, each track is goosebump-inducing in the best way.

Scary Black’s debut album, “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” features some of my favorite songs, such as “I Will Crawl Inside Your Heart and Die.”

The Ire

If you like music with screamier vocals, The Ire may be for you.

Based in Philadelphia, The Ire draws inspiration from 80’s post-punk and infuses the style with deathrock dramaticism.

Cover for “Bacchic Dance” by The Ire

Their first demo album, “Demo,” came out in 2019. From then on, their command of style only refined itself, leading to their most recent album, “Bacchic Dance,” which came out Feb 2, 2024.

Light Asylum

I remember dancing to “Dark Allies” at the Wicked Witch back in 2023. The energy was electrifying, the air gauzy with fluttering shawls and swaying arms and swooshing leather.

Light Asylum is the Brooklyn-based solo project of Shannon Funchess, founded first as a duo in 2007 until keyboardist Bruno Coviello left in 2012.

Cover for “Light Asylum” by Light Asylum

Light Asylum’s music is powerful and inspired, with Funchess’s vocals fueling the project’s international appeal. With an 80’s-inspired sound, Light Asylum’s influences extend from Depeche Mode to the industrial clang of Nine Inch Nails.

She Wants Revenge

At this point, I’d be hard-pressed to find someone in the alternative scene who hasn’t heard of She Wants Revenge.

Their iconic “Tear You Apart” defined my adolescence.

Based in San Fernando Valley, California, She Wants Revenge presents a stilted and charmingly blunt take on post-punk and darkwave.

Cover for “She Wants Revenge” by She Wants Revenge

Consisting of Justin Warfield and Adam Bravin, the band emerged in 2006 after being scouted by none other than Fred Durst, every twenty-something-year-old teenage girl’s favorite man.

And the rest is history.

Shadow Age

Putting the dark back in darkwave, Shadow Age’s music is cold and diffused through fog.

Based in Richmond, Virginia, Shadow Age released their first demo in 2013. Two years later their first EP, “Silaluk,” hit the airwaves.

The album has a beautifully esoteric sound and a distant, hazy vocal quality that conjures images of blanched, glacial landscapes.

Cover for “Silaluk” by Shadow Age

The band’s 2017 album “The Fall” is comparatively warmer, though still with a lo-fi distortion.

Their most recent release, the single “Ours,” takes the band’s sound in an interesting new direction with stronger electronic and indie influences.

Final Thoughts

People of color have always influenced the alternative music scene, and for much of musical history, their impact has been ignored.

Lending recognition to the numerous artists who continue to operate in the scene is integral to building a more inclusive and representative space.

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Band/Artist Profile

Artist Spotlight: O. Children and Tobi O’Kandi

It’s February, which always proves to be an…enigmatic…time of year.

Positioned right in the center between the start of winter and the beginning of spring, February is a time of anticipation, yearning and rumination. Valentine’s day — and midterms — loom on the horizon.

However, beyond these trivialities, February is also a time of remebrance. Black History Month, a time dedicated to honoring black excellence and elevating black voices.

Photo by neil godding on Unsplash

The alternative music scene is, to put it plainly, quite white. While artists of color certainly exist, they often don’t receive the recognition or platforms they deserve.

My goal this month is to shine a light upon black influence in the alternative music scene and use this platform to explore the stories of several black artists.

Today, we’ll be focusing on Tobi O’Kandi of the goth rock band O. Children.

Bono Must Die

Before solidifying himself as the lead of O. Children, Tobi O’Kandi was the frontman of a controversial band, one I’d never heard of until I started doing research for this post.

Bono Must Die, as O’Kandi stated in an interview with Soundsphere back in 2010, was largely a joke.

Cover for “O. Children” by O. Children

Affecting a Cockney accent and singing satire about Satanism, money, sex and night buses, O’Kandi and his crew grew a following significant enough that the band toured twice alongside Florence + The Machine, Crystal Castles and numerous other topsters. 

One lawsuit (from U2’s Bono himself) and a name change later, Bono Must Die finally died. After three years of activity, O’Kandi was bored. He wanted to try his hand at forming a “proper” band.

O. Children

O. Children, named after the Nick Cave song, formed in 2008. Consisting of O’Kandi, Andi Sleath, Gauthier Ajarrista and Harry James, O. Children drew inspiration from pivotal bands of the 80’s.

The band cites Joy Division, the Sisters of Mercy, Fields of the Nephilim and — of course — Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds as their primary stylistic influences.

The band’s reverence for Cave didn’t end simply with their name. As they stated in an interview with Loud and Quiet back in 2009, their goal wasn’t simply to emulate, but to embody.

“We’re gonna be the guys that take over Nick Cave and dance on his grave, his Children. O. Children,” O’Kandi said.

Cover for “Apnea” by O. Children

When discussing his aims for the band, he stated, “We want to work on something we feel we can give our heart and soul to and it turns out it’s this. What we’re saying is that in two months… we’re going to blow you away.”

In 2010, O. Children released their self-titled debut album, which features some of their most iconic tracks, such as “Dead Disco Dancer” and “Ruins.”

With clear elements of gothic rock, post-punk and a dash of pop, the band’s energy is melancholy but riveting. Full of motion and emotion and emulating the borderline-western-borderline-opera style of Nick Cave, the album is beautifully done.

There’s an interesting parallel between the works of Nick Cave and O’Kandi. Both artists started with an experimental, distorted sound — Cave with The Birthday Party and O’Kandi with Bono Must Die — before transitioning to something smoother and more restrained.

O. Children released its sophomore album, “Apnea,” in 2012, followed by three singles, “PT Cruiser,” “Chimera,” and “Yours For You.

Okandi

After O. Children eventually ceased its activity, O’Kandi was left desiring another creative outlet. In 2019, he launched his solo project, Okandi, with the release of “Devil I Know.”

Cover for “God Save The Fake” by O. Children

Since, he’s released three more singles. The most recent, “God Save The Fake,” came out in 2022.

Okandi’s sound is more experimental than O. Children’s, foregoing the former band’s rocking style for a staunch darkwave/electro slant.

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Band/Artist Profile

Classic Band Spotlight: Polyrock

Chances are, you’re aware of the music scene in 1970s New York City. 

You’re likely aware of the rise of punk rock, new wave, and hip-hop that marked the city with critical attention. You may even know about no wave, a vital development that quietly influenced scores of artists working across genres for generations to come.

However, you may or may not be aware of one New York band who slipped under the radar of the national spotlight, and unfortunately, many of the history articles that have saturated the realm of music journalism: Polyrock.

Formed in New York in 1978 and led by frontman/guitarist Billy Robertson, Polyrock was arguably one of the first bands (at least on this side of the Atlantic) to introduce a pattern-based, sharply-angled take on the guitar music of the time, and to capitalize on the sensibilities which would soon become commonplace in the artier side of the growing post-punk and new wave movements.

However, a crucial component to the alluring story of this band is the fact that they had excellent help: production and composition assistance from none other than minimalism pioneer Philip Glass. In fact, Glass appears as a musician on their first two albums.

The influence of Glass’s school of minimalism is evident, as the repetitive motions of Polyrock’s music create a hypnotic atmosphere not dissimilar from the music in Glass’s own catalog. Evidence of Krautrock influence is also present; you can hear rhythms and sonic ideas initiated by CAN or Faust throughout Polyrock’s work, making them one of the first bands to draw these influences into the growing indie rock landscape.

The captivating layering of minimalism and rock is truly sublime, and extremely ahead of its era; similar moments and musical quotations have popped up in music decades later, in bands such as Stereolab or Osees.

Polyrock’s debut self-titled 1980 LP, though somewhat inflexible at times, nonetheless presents a worldly, justifiable cohesion found in similar projects of the era.

The chaos is vivid, and the noise is visceral; however, the rhythms are nearly club-ready, and the motorik drumming cuts through the auditory clutter like a hot knife. The fun, sharp beats pull you down into songs you may otherwise feel lost or overwhelmed in. 

Polyrock is, of course, not the only group of their era to play around with this dichotomy. While often compared to New York scene brethren Talking Heads, a more apt comparison to the deeply neurotic, rigid grooves would be DEVO, or perhaps Suburban Lawns. 

Their second album, “Changing Hearts”, was released in 1981 and provides a very similar backbone, with slightly diluted experimentalism. it still takes into account the lessons learned from the first Glass collaboration, but manages to successfully branch out and tone down thoughtfully. The danceable grooves remain, and the band’s formula is not left behind. However, slight moves are taken to improve the accessibility of the work; fortunately, it is apparent that these moves are not to the detriment of the album’s creative value.

For a low-key sophomore effort, it’s pleasantly surprising, and just as interesting as the band’s debut.

Polyrock was met with critical acclaim, and over time, their artistic space has become more and more revisited. However, as angular art rock pioneers, and considering their early toe-dipping into minimalism, they deserve vastly more credit for their work than they’ve received.

Watch the video for “Romantic Me” here.

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Band/Artist Profile

Babe Haven: NC Queer Punk

Shout out to North Carolina bands. We North Carolinians love when you approach our ears with songs that make us proud to be from the same state as you. Babe Haven is an excellent example of one of these bands. 

They are an all female, queer punk band who originally started out in Boone (as of this 2023 Mountain Times article). The members include Naomi Poesel (guitar/ vocals), Lillie Della Penna (lead vocals), Kat Savidge (drums) and Julia Lynn (bass). Babe Haven has a few releases under their belt like their self titled EP, “Babe Haven” and “Uppercut”, which is a full length album released last year in May. 

Obviously, I’m from North Carolina, so I have a little bit of bias when it comes to musicians sprouting from this state, but Babe Haven has the talent and sound to become a true North Carolina staple in the music world. 

Also, Almost all these tracks are FCC inappropriate. Plug your ears if you hate cursing, dweebs. 

Babe Haven” – Released on Spotify December 3, 2021

Bad Witch

I think of the four tracks on this release, “Bad Witch” and “Movie Night” stand out to me. This track checks all the boxes of what you want from an early release in a band’s discography as catchy, danceable and probably really fun to play live. I’d love to see this live and see how the band treats this. You can feel how much everyone is invested in the band’s sound just from this one track too, which is significant in the success of any band or any group ever – buy in.

Movie Night

I really enjoy the warbly guitar in this song. The lyrics are chill and in total, the track feels a little more psychedelic because of the vocals and guitar mixing together. 

Uppercut” – Released on May 15, 2023

Uppercut

The opening track and the title track all wrapped into one hunky, heavy beautiful thick sound that resonates with more than my ears. It’s a holistic body experience. 

Slim Jim

This song has the best kind of corny vibe interwoven into its threads. It’s a weird dive into the writing style of this band and their minds. Babe Haven is definitely angry, but they’re doing it in a funny way. I love it. 

Strangers in Real Life Friends in My Head

I don’t know. This track clicks really well in my head. The opening fast paced drums and bass go vrrm and I love this feeling of heavy, heavy deep throated noise shooting down my soul. The warmth floods into my head, my stomach, just everywhere around me. 

Daddy’s Lil Grrrl

The opening guitar reminds me of Sonic Youth, another great band (I love Kim Gordon). Then the vocals hit perfectly on this track, which swept me into a beautiful fury by the end of the song. 

Where’s Our Haven?

Babe Haven’s limited discography is their only downfall in my eyes. I know they do a good job of traveling the area and have done quite a bit of touring throughout the United States too. In Raleigh, they’ll be playing at the Pour House on February 23, so if you get a kick out of their sound feel free to check them out while they’re around. 

I can’t wait to see where this band continues to strive towards. They have a new album coming out in the late spring called “Nuisance”.

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Band/Artist Profile

Artist Spotlight: Tassel

I’ll be honest. I haven’t been listening to many new bands lately.

In lieu of my duties as a DJ, I’ve mostly been streaming dreamy 80s pop. I find that the musical works of Duran Duran, Naked Eyes and Kajagoogoo are just enough to distract me from the sense of melancholia that emerges during the early winter.

Although I didn’t take the opportunity to compile an assortment of new bands over winter break, I did manage to stumble upon an group slowly gaining more prominence in the dark music scene.

Industrial Liturgy

Based in Phoenix, Tassel is a musical project “embracing pentecostal origins, punk ethos, unabashed queerness and the allure of mystery.”

The band released their first single in 2021. Titled “Steel Patch,” the track features upbeat instrumentals with droning, dispassionate vocals. Their sound reminded me of French Police, one of my most beloved post-punk bands.

Cover for “OLD COVENANT” by Tassel

Tassel calls its music “industrial liturgy,” a term which I took as an incovation of the band’s aim to sublimate ritual in music.

Other bands have taken on a similar goal, such as the aptly-named Liturgy. However, while Liturgy’s ritualism is evident in the band’s sprawling, hypnotic rhythms, I struggled to situate this concept within Tassel’s music.

That was, until I listened to some of their more recent material.

Cover for “NEW COVENANT” by Tassel

Tassel’s two most recent releases, “NEW COVENANT” and “OLD COVENANT,” are more darkwave and industrial than post-punk. Cold, metallic and entrancingly distorted, these two albums are more in the realm of Male Tears or Skinny Puppy than French Police. There’s more drama, more sensuality and far more emotion.

Tracks from both albums feature vast expanses of experimentalism, presenting a raw and unabashed sound.

While it seems Tassel originally branded itself as a post-punk group, it’s clear that its stylistic progression has led down the route of EBM and industrial. It’s clear to me from what I’ve consumed so far that the band is adept at cultivating both subgenres of sound.

Cover for “steel patch ep” by Tassel

Of the band’s post-punk works, my favorites are “ruminate,” and “reprise.”

From their latest albums, I particularly liked “only a word” and “unveiled.”

While Tassel is still relatively new to the scene, I certainly look forward to the band’s future projects.

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Band/Artist Profile New Album Review

“Swatta” by Chepang: Nepalese-American Grindcore

Chepang is not a new band. They’ve been inhabiting Queens, NYC for about eight years now. The band members left Nepal and subsequently formed Chepang in 2016, and since then they have been grinding away and making their sounds known to the world.