Viking's Choice: Improvised Punk, Liberation Noise, Bummer Doom

We've gone rogue!


If you’re getting this newsletter, it’s because I like you. (Not like you-like you, but you know.) You filled out an extremely informal survey on what you’d like to see out of Viking’s Choice in 2020, which was immensely helpful and encouraging to me! Overwhelmingly, y’all wanted to see Viking’s Choice in your inbox and it only took a pandemic to make it happen.

A week into the coronavirus crisis, NPR Music asked me to scale down Viking’s Choice — no weekly column, just an updated playlist. I’m two minds about it, wanting to support my small staff covering COVID-19 and its effects on the music industry, but also wanting to support musicians on the fringe.

So now Viking’s Choice has gone rogue. This newsletter is as much for the underground weirdos and headbangers as it is for my mental health. I have to write about this music. Raging black metal, sublime noise and somnambulist drone help me process the world. — Lars Gotrich

The Playlist

39 songs. 2 songs titled “Caught in the Middle” sequenced — you guessed it — in the middle. Book-ended by 2 songs titled “Look Alive.” Front-loaded with Moor Jewelry’s improvised punk, Giuseppi Logan’s raw free-jazz, Bishop Nehru’s re-team-up with MF Doom (my favorite rapper of all time) and Roy Ayers’ smooth funk fire.

Stream the playlist via Spotify (Apple Music’s broken at the moment). Did you miss a previous playlist? Get thee to the archives.

Best of Bandcamp

Moor Jewelry, True Opera: Moor Mother + Mental Jewelry blaze through 10 spontaneous punk missives, conjuring the chaos of Crass and No Trend, Mission of Burma's bass lines and AmRep noise.

A Pregnant Light, I and I: Damian Master’s second multi-part metal-punk epic, and like 2016's Rocky, this one feels personal. Dusky riffs, blackened shoegaze and acoustic passages break up the emotional gut-punch.

Pink Siifu, NEGRO: In awe of this noise. Rages at white supremacy and capitalism with blown-out punk, liberation jazz a la Art Ensemble of Chicago and industrial rap as his weapons.

Lord Vigo, Danse de Noir: From the high-energy riffs to the theatrical mid-tempo ragers, these Germans really love Dio. The pipes aren't there — few can match Ronnie James Dio — but the spirit is mighty. Some Blue Öyster Cult hard-rock pop hooks + a Gothic sheen makes it Lord Vigo's own.

Buck Curran, No Love is a Sorrow: While Buck, an American guitarist living in Northern Italy, makes downer-psych with an eye towards sunset, beauty seeps through the cracks of these songs, especially in his soft baritone.

Haapoja, Mullan Keskeltä: Deathspell Omega, but make it a Finnish hardcore band. Unhinged and oblong terror, but loaded with weirdo black-metal grooves.

Morusque, the end of music: Musique concrète constructed from the very ends of songs. A simple idea that ends up sounding like Broadcast gone vaporwave, or The Books' twee pastiche pulsing with krautrock and chill-hop beats.

SØØN, WHAT THE F*** DID WE DØ TØ THE EARTH: Jeez, what a 2020 mood. Really fast, really feminist, really pissed hardcore from Honolulu, Hawaii. No guitar solos, just rage. I’m also just a fan of extraneous and unnecessary diacritics.

Death the Leveller, II: Quietly sob while slowly banging your head to this beautiful bummer. 40 Watt Sun and Primordial fans take note, especially, of this theatrically sung, moody doom metal from Ireland.

Kim Myhr & Australian Art Orchesta, Vesper: Night music for insomniacs and sleepwalkers, illuminating wonder and terror in slowly shifting strings. Calls to mind Talk Talk's Laughing Stock as the Norwegian guitarist journeys through the dark.

The Giuseppi Logan Quartet, The Giuseppi Logan Quartet: Was sad to hear about the death of this free-jazz multireedist (as well as bassist Henry Grimes). Here’s a guy who released two singular albums for ESP-Disk’ in the 1960s, completely disappeared and then returned in 2009. This quartet date from 1964, in particular, is truly wild, uninhibited free jazz — looking back, it anticipates Albert Ayler’s noise for the same label just a year later, but leans into a raw, seeking chaos.

RIYL tangents

What: Abundant Living (newsletter)

Why: Might as well make this newsletter’s first RIYL (where I literally just recommend things I like: podcasts, dumb memes, breakfast recipes, etc.) to another newsletter on Substack. Zachary Lipez recommends great hardcore-punk demos via Twitter, slings drinks in Brooklyn (or did before *gestures everywhere*) and sings for Gothic post-punks Publicist UK, but he’s always a been a trip to read. His writing is like a spider-web — there are connective strands, but it’s easy to get tangled in his run-ons, asides and rabbit holes. I mean, how the h*ck else do you link up Dolly Parton with 16 Horsepower?