The situation in Ukraine changes day to day. Like so many, I watch with worry and heartbreak. I don't pretend to write about things I don't know or understand, such as international politics, when I have NPR colleagues literally reporting from bomb shelters and train stations crammed with families trying to cross the border. But I have seen the resilience of Ukrainians, the support of neighboring countries, and protests from so many Russians — from all walks of life, but especially from Eastern European musicians I follow on Instagram. This I understand: Music communities uplift each other in crisis. Or at least they should.
It's easy to feel helpless in situations like these, so here's a start: an open-sourced spreadsheet of Ukraine-based artists and labels, with tabs for charity and community support. (For what it's worth, I don't own or maintain the spreadsheet... hence, open source.) Buy an album on Bandcamp, share the spreadsheet, stay informed.
A side note: Not to make one thing about another — and, hey, it's me writing about things I only sorta know (but feel strongly) about — but I do wish I'd seen this level of engagement around Syrian refugees by American media, community groups and churches. I was aghast, though not surprised, at the racism then and at the double standard now. To be good stewards of humanity, let's learn from this time and apply going forward. —Lars Gotrich
Vórtize,¡Tienes Que Luchar! (Nube Negra): Speed metal is made for outrageous feats of skill, and tends to attract musicians with an aesthetic flair. Chile's Vórtize opens its debut album capably enough — NWOBHM-indebted power riffs, twin guitar leads, rough-yet-joyful vocal harmonies en español, drums that push the BPM at every turn — but then… a whistling solo!!?? It's the strangest, but most welcome surprise I've heard from metal in years. From that moment on, I was ALL IN. Vórtize is Javier Ortiz (Demoniac, Oldeath) with some guest guitarists and a helluva vocal performance by Romi Huerta Núñez who needs to front a trad metal band immediately.
i-sef u-sef, consistency (Preference): Bassoon-forward R&B from Egyptian-American producer Yousef El-Magharbel. It's one of those things that could get gimmicky real quick, but there's a distinctive hypnosis over 13 tracks that bleeds into another. Think: The Internet's all-too-cool-but-relatable R&B, Solange or Dirty Projectors' deconstructed soul, Chris Weisman's monotone croon over busy avant-pop. No track stands out in this wavy aura, but you never want to leave — just hang in i-sef u-sef's weather.
Squat Apart, Cult Returns (Surrogate): Spitfire blackmetalpunk from Odessa — Venom-ous rock and roll riffs, crusty D-beat drums, an absolutely shredded scream. This is the kind of nasty, hook-filled hardcore that Damian Master (A Pregnant Light, Colloquial Sound Recordings) eats for breakfast. Squat Apart appears to be pretty new, and pummels with urgency — in that spirit, perhaps, bassist Vladimir Tretyak has gone to the front lines of the Ukraine. I never want war, but wish him safety and support all the same.
v/a, Out for Blood Vol. 2 (Greedy Dust): Scene comps are still so crucial, especially in punk. Here's the second scene report from Greedy Dust featuring seven absolutely ripping Indonesian hardcore bands. Nice variety, too: Turnstile heads will want to check the goth jock jams of Devil Despize, Rekklus stirs up some mosh-core thrash, Check Your Head satisfyingly throws back to youth crew with some tough-guy riffage, Destiny gives me chugga-chugga Fugazi emotionalism, Fuel will stomp your head. Now drop the tape!
Andrew Trim, Retroreflector (Float Free): Andrew Trim lands somewhere between Bill Frisell's gente-yet-tactile sensibility and Jeff Parker's time with Tortoise — the jazz quartet compositions are tight, yet allow enough space for Trim's fuzz-driven guitar to sprawl. There's a real driving at dusk past corn fields atmosphere, pulsed forward by a steady rhythm section and droning organ and Wurlitzer.
Modern Lamps, Lucid Cartography (Hooker Vision): Opium den drone from Rachel Evans (Motion Sickness of Time Travel) and Grant Evans via two resurrected projects — their duo Modern Lamps and their label Hooker Vision. This tape takes me back to a decade ago when labels like Not Not Fun, Hooker Vision, Stunned, Night People and Digitalis documented a danker psychedelia championed by Arthur Magazine and aQuarius Records — layers of bells and chimes, echoing guitar and fuzzed-out bass could provide an alternate soundtrack to Ira Cohen's psychedelic fantasia Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda.
Stream the updated Viking's Choice playlist via BNDCMPR. Tracklist below:
Vórtize, "Mundo Bipolar"
i-sef u-sef, "alone again"
Squat Apart, "Во Имя Себя"
Devil Despize, "Alpha & Omega"
Andrew Trim, "Eclipse Plans"
Modern Lamps, "South Mars Onsen"
Pušča, "Ça brûle"
La Faiblesse, "Cachés du soleil"
Hidden Spheres, "Improvisation"
Almas Fronterizas, "Cruel Desperation"
Mohammad Reza Mortazavi, "Exploring"
Emmanuelle Parrenin, "La Rêvelinière"
Masakatsu Takagi, "Marginalia #105"
Fishbach, "De l'instinct"
Oren Ambarchi / Johan Berthling / Andreas Werliin, "II"
Crimson Tower, "Witching Me"
Crossed, "Flores Rotas"
Dama Scout, "emails from suzanne"
Kee Avil, "And I"
Nikolaienko, "Troglodytes (feat. Arthur Mine)"
Spring Silver, "Little Prince"
Wasted, "Break You"
Sunset Stranger, "Cloudy and Calm"
Astral Tomb, "Traversing the Wandering Star"
На Выжженной Земле, "Руины Родины"
Erupt, "Shinin' Claymore"
Nico Gomez, "Pa! Pa! Pa! Pa!"