Friday, September 9, 2011

Martian Dance Bands of the Week (all-Boston edition): Pile and Ho-Ag

You know where i hear most of the new bands that excite the hell out of me these days? It's not the usual media outlets like Pitchfork, AV Club, what have you, because let's face it--what the big boys choose to cover just isn't in my wheelhouse at all most of the time. Sure, occasionally Pitchfork will happen to give a stamp of approval to viscerally thrilling, noisy music like HEALTH or Ponytail, but each of those bands found their way to my ears in a different way (HEALTH live, Ponytail from a friend's recommendation, then live). And yeah, AV Club's Loud column is doing some good, but the focus on metal and straight-up punk results in a lot of skimming.

Nope--my online source for all things baller awesome is the Electrical Audio Forum, home of the PRF BBQ music fests and thread after thread of killer recommendations (and no, you derisive naysayers, it's not just a bunch of bands that sound like mid-90s Touch & Go Records or Shellac soundalikes). A few days ago i finally got around to checking out a thread about Boston heavy-folksters Pile, and they have been kicking my ass up and down my apartment ever since.

There's not a lot of biographical info on their Bandcamp site or on their home page, but here's what i do know: they are from Boston, and they play loud, meaty rock and roll that sounds like the Melvins playing hard-hitting 70s folk-rock jams. Their current full-length, Magic Isn't Real, is a trove of bluegrass licks run through the most Sabbath of fuzz pedals. "Levee" and "Two Snakes" are big time highlights, while "Octopus" manages to pound out some serious grunge touchtones in a way that sounds completely fresh, more Mudhoney than Pearl Jam, but definitely its own thing. 2009's Jerk Routine, while not as indebted to the stoner gods of yore, has a heaviness all its own, while keeping the dark, thick, country-rock groove. It calls to mind a long-defunct Western Massachusetts band called EZT, actually, but that's probably way to obscure to work as any sort of a functioning comparison.

Pile just came through Chicago on a two-night stand, and while i wasn't able to catch them, crucial dude John Yingling of Gonzo Chicago captured them on film and uploaded a taste of their crazy, badlam inducing set at Casa Donde:

Meanwhile, i was massively stoked on Wednesday to learn that some old Boston pals of mine, Ho-Ag, had reconvened to unleash a new two-song single into the ether: "Seal the Room​/​Kuzka Mom."

While Pile strip-mine the burly forests of the Pacific Northwest for their inspiration, Ho-Ag's always looked toward the industrial desolation of Ohio for their Devo proto-punk influences. Kindred spirits with my band's weirdo brand of noise-punk? Absolutely, although while we embrace walls of noise and pop hooks, Ho-Ag's gone deeper into Area 51, jerking through alien hallways with sharp corners and dead ends with nothing more than a theremin's whine and a Moog's asphyxiated gurgle to guide them. Their previous full-lengths, 2006's The Word from Pluto and 2008's Doctor Cowboy were my favorite albums of their respective years, and would have likely made my all-decade list had i crafted one. "Seal the Room" and "Kuzka Mom" are more of what makes them great--solid, boilerplate entries into their spazzy, sci-fi Plan 9 catalog. Not a lot new happening on either track, but still better than your band (and mine). Careening drums, synthetic bridges, and faux-unnerving horror-film "woah-ooohs"? Check, check, and thank god, check.

Ho-Ag's been baffling the straights about as long as we have (the first release on their Bandcamp dates back to 2002, a year before we played with them for the first time), and have about as much success and exposure to show for it as we do. Crank this nonsense and tell your friends, and we'll see if we can lure them into another long-overdue US tour.

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