Chris Martins



  • Atari Teenage Riot, 'Is This Hyperreal?' (Dim Mak/Digital Hardcore)

    Atari Teenage Riot, 'Is This Hyperreal?' (Dim Mak/Digital Hardcore)

    The Berlin breakcore ?terrorists reunite for their first album in 12 years (minus MC Carl Crack, who died of a drug overdose in 2001), thrashing ears and minds with leader Alec Empire's trademark blend of anarchist propaganda shouted over processed guitar blasts and punky techno-jungle beats. That means plenty of high-energy/high-concept pummellers like "Activate," featuring gonzo guest rapper CX Kidtronik. But this time around, ATR's protest platitudes ("Are you ready to testify?") and electronic skronk-thud ("Digital ?Decay," with female member Nic Endo holding forth on Internet freedom), sound awkwardly dated.

  • Gang Gang Dance, 'Eye Contact' (4AD)

    Gang Gang Dance, 'Eye Contact' (4AD)

    As a proudly underground entity, Manhattan's Gang Gang Dance seemed bent on creating one long celestial psych jam. But for 2008's Saint Dymphna, they pared down the dubby dance experimentation and reaped the rewards (namely, a record deal). Less woozy and intoxicating than its predecessors, that album was a gateway drug into what now turns out to be an even wilder and murkier milieu. GGD's fifth album and first for 4AD, Eye Contact opens with the 11-minute "Glass Jar," a freewheeling mass of synths, cymbals, and high moans that withholds the beat far beyond the halfway mark. The song also contains a key clue: a man's voice declaring with Sheen-like clarity (and/or inscrutability), "It's everything time." While Dymphna divvied up the band's influences over ten identifiable songs, here their entire spectrum of styles gets blasted constantly, each track bleeding into the next.

  • Tyler the Creator, 'Goblin' (XL)

    Tyler the Creator, 'Goblin' (XL)

    Even as more of the world watches and Diddy lurks at his door, it still would've been surprising if Tyler, the Creator had made a run for the mainstream on his second album. And by kicking off Goblin with a defiant seven-minute intro, the Odd Future overlord solidifies his place as America's favorite young nihilist, dismantling the next-big-thing rep that he's been building. As he debates a "therapist" (Tyler himself, his voice distorted), the MC/producer claims, "People excited, thinking shit is so tight / Getting cosigns from rappers I don't even like." For a newcomer, Tyler sports one of the most complex profiles in rap. His burgeoning career is founded on walking tightropes that criss-cross intimacy and distance, glee and depression, savvy and sacrilege.

  • Mexicans With Guns, 'Ceremony' (Innovative Leisure/Friends of Friends)

    Mexicans With Guns, 'Ceremony' (Innovative Leisure/Friends of Friends)

    "Soy el cielo, soy el montaña," coos a woman's voice on Ceremony's intro -- "I am the sky, I am the mountain." Fitting, considering San Antonio producer Ernest Gonzales offers up a bracing collision of atmosphere and heft on this bass-heavy debut. Cumbia rhythms collide with Game Boy glitch ("Me Gusto"), shotgun blasts punctuate chase ?music for an unmade Robert Rodriguez flick ("Dame Lo"), and Freddie Gibbs stops by to spit gangsta raps over a conga-laced border-town banger ("Highway to Hell").

  • Times New Viking, 'Dancer Equired' (Merge)

    Times New Viking, 'Dancer Equired' (Merge)

    Taking to a proper studio for the first time in five albums, this notoriously hissy Ohio garage gang create their most accessible work yet: 14 melody-thick doses of rock candy crammed into just 30 lightly fuzzed minutes. Without their trademark willful tinniness, it's all easy to embrace, from the pretty and poppy ("No Room to Live") to the arty and odd ("Try Harder") to the upbeat and thrashing ("Fuck Her Tears"). Among those still cranking out shambolic odes to the suburban bored, these reformed shitgazers rule.

  • Cass McCombs, 'Wit's End' (Domino)

    Cass McCombs, 'Wit's End' (Domino)

    A loner nomad with a knack for canny poetry, soft arrangements, and crawling tempos, Cass McCombs seems like an anachronism. Wit's End is even more hushed and sluggish than 2009's Catacombs, leaving lighter Dylanesque fare for depressive Leonard Cohen depths. The yearning piano plinking of"Saturday Song" could pass for the theme to a '40s noir flick. The harpsichord-limned "Buried Alive" is everything its title suggests. Even the soulful soft-rocker "County Line" moves at a deliberate lope, but the velvet-voiced songwriter isn't worried about pacing. He's aiming for timeless.

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    Avenged Sevenfold Reign at Revolver's Golden Gods

    Hard rock legends and black-clad fans crowded Club Nokia in Los Angeles Wednesday night for the third annual Revolver Golden Gods. It was the first time the heavy metal awards show sold out, due in no small part to the promised performance from beloved SoCal post-hardcore thrashers Avenged Sevenfold. The band wound up stealing the show, picking up four prizes including Best Album for their latest, 2010's Nightmare, and racking up the most devil-horns -- even while sharing a bill with the original lineup of Alice Cooper, performing in L.A. for the first time in four decades. It was a night of big stars and high spirits.

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    Animal Collective Debut Powerful New Songs

    For their Coachella main stage debut, Animal Collective unsurprisingly took the road less traveled. Accompanied by bizarre Technicolor visuals projected onto three massive overhead cubes and two large screens, the set was one part immersive art project, one part fever dream. And rather than use the opportunity to play past favorites, the band focused on new songs. It was weird and wooly at first. There was strange braying and wailing from the stage, jarring effects collisions and actual screams cutting through the incredibly soupy psychedelic murk. The video feed, designed by Black Dice, initially seemed decipherable to only the most ADHD-addled of minds. There were people running, distorted by static and neon blobs.

  • Vivian Girls, 'Share the Joy' (Polyvinyl)

    Vivian Girls, 'Share the Joy' (Polyvinyl)

    "I don't wanna be like the other girls," Cassie Ramone drones at the start of Share the Joy, an album that aims to further the modern, girl group-influenced garage-rock archetype the Vivs have done as much as anyone to popularize. As an opener, "Other Girls" might be overcompensation -- six minutes of sour melodies, psych jangle, and prog progression. But it does eventually resolve into "I Heard You Say," a dash of wintry Mamas and Papas pop. Sadly, the trio regresses from there, simply shining up versions of the same old loose, punky love songs they've been hawking for years.

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    No Blood, No Glory: Thrasher Party Wilding at SXSW

    In a SXSW sideshow with no shortage of highlights -- the proposition of Odd Future, Das Racist and a 40-year-old doom metal band sharing a bill hosted by Andrew W.K. frankly boggles the mind -- there was an irrefutable apex to Friday's Thrasher Magazine day party. As Los Angeles rap misfits Odd Future wrapped up their second song, crew leader Tyler the Creator eyed the onstage double-stack of massive speakers with a wicked grin. He scaled the P.A. and pulled partner Hodgy Beats up behind him. Then, after delivering a verse of "French," he leapt 20 feet down into the screaming crowd, who floated him unscathed back to the stage. But that wasn't the best part. Not to be outdone, Hodgy climbed from the speakers to the roof of the Scoot Inn's outdoor stage, preceded to dance across the corrugated tin, and then dropped roughly three stories, feet first into the mosh pit.

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