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Viking's Choice: Japanese Free Jazz, Psychedelic Hardcore, Doomy Drone

Masayuki Takayanagi on the cover of <em>April is the cruellest month</em>, a blasted 1975 session now available on vinyl for the first time.
Tatsuo Minami
Courtesy of Blank Forms Editions
Masayuki Takayanagi on the cover of April is the cruellest month, a blasted 1975 session now available on vinyl for the first time.

For more than a decade, the Viking's Choice column has been a safe space (or a festering wound, depending on whom you ask) for metal, punk, drone and all sorts of "weird" and/or "loud" music on NPR. You've heard me on the All Songs Considered podcast, and gotten irregular doses of my sonic realms on this blog.

As we announced yesterday, Viking's Choice will now be updated weekly via Spotify and Apple Music playlists, on Tuesdays. So if that's how you find new music, smash that follow button like Matt Pike on a blistering riff. Be prepared to hop from Town Portal's instrumental noise-rock epic to Public Interest's Devo-worshipping synth-punk or L.O.T.I.O.N.'s mecha-hardcore to the lusciously prepared piano of Kelly Moran in a sequence that I swear makes sense.

But if I'm being honest, most of my new or reissued music discovery happens while hopping around Bandcamp. So in addition to those Spotify and Apple Music playlists (that you have already followed, thank you very much), I'm going to take a little time each week to highlight tracks from artists who publish (sometimes exclusively) on Bandcamp's digital music platform. Think of it as Viking's Choice: I Don't Know Her Edition.

Kaleidoscope, "After the Futures"

Was this record mixed in a bunker during an air raid? Every noise-rattled riff, every hoarse scream, every rumbling and crumbling drum roll has been pushed past the red; yet the Brooklyn hardcore band writes energizing hooks like the late Jay Reatard. Pure psychedelic punk mayhem.

High Aura'd & Josh Mason, "Silver"

Quiet drones strung from grey clouds and doomy, feedback-smoked ash swirl together on a collaborative album that both illuminates and obscures the differing, yet complementary ambient styles of Josh Mason and John Kolodij (a.k.a. High Aura'd). Pairs well with a dark pu-erh tea and nature videos.

Heterofobia, "El Infierno"

Can you get vertigo from a guitar tone? Monterey, Mexico's Heterofobia makes unapologetically nauseating hardcore with caverns of Gothic, pink-webbed atmosphere. I feel sick and I want more.

Immortal Bird, "Vestigial Warnings"

You know the moment when spiked walls are about to crush your bones? Immortal Bird nails (pun completely intended) that skin-crawling claustrophobia with metallic madness, but spaces out its relentlessly sliding grind with prowling hardcore riffs.

Masayuki Takayanagi New Directions Unit, "My Friend, Blood Shaking My Heart"

There's radical music and then there's music liberated from everything we hold dear. Originally slated for a release on ESP-Disk' in 1975, shelved until 1991, and never pressed to vinyl until now, Japanese guitarist Masayuki Takayanagi blasted free jazz forms into shards of deliriously vomitorious glee.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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