Freak Scene #55: Stress Ape, Birds of Maya and Condominium

April 26, 2010

In this week’s Freak Scene, after breezing through her senior thesis (!), Jamie Johns catches us up on three new sweet records by Stress Ape, Birds of Maya and Condominium.

I had a pretty good week guys! My thesis is done, I now have a post-graduation plan and I am looking forward to my impending trip to Austin, TX for Chaos in Tejas. So I picked three pretty good records to write about and I have nothing else to say.

Stress Ape

This band easily has one of the worst band names that I have heard in the last few years. It sounds like something that would have emerged from the post-grunge alt-rock radio abyss of the mid-’90s when bands with horrible names like Spacehog and Seven Mary Three were acceptable radio friendly unit shifters. When I hear the name Stress Ape, I just imagine dudes wearing huge goggles and ill-fitting pants. However, I really need to get over the cringe-worthy name and all this other shit because Stress Ape’s “Time Hard” 7-inch out on the Hard Scrabble Amateurs label is quite good. And it’s a cover of a bouncy reggae song? The band takes that incongruous ditty and turns it into a churning, soiled dirge. The original song is weird because the main lyric “Every day things are getting worse” is paired with happy harmonizing, but Stress Ape take those lyrics up where they belong: amidst Earth 2 style riffs, feral yells, and delay effects. It is a take on the other effect of marijuana—paranoia—that the original song glosses over. It is pretty hard to go wrong with those elements on a record and when the guitar is heavy and blown out. Psychedelic nihilism or something? The band offers two takes on the song on this 7-inch; side a is a straight forward and lurching, while side b throws some delay on the vocals and lets the ponderous guitar take center stage. Oakland, CA isn't so sunny after all. You can get it from Hard Scrabble Amateurs HERE.

Birds of Maya

In Schnipper’s column last week, he talked about drone bands that get onstage and wank for thirty minutes and then are all like “Thanks we have a few more” all while your bladder and your sense of personal fulfillment are suffering greatly. A band can really falter when it lets itself take as much time as it would like. Even before hearing Birds of Maya's new double LP on Richie Records, Ready to Howl, I had to admire the band's big ol' balls for putting out something this long. There are three songs over two LPs and the album is of such a length that lesser bands would have fallen down long before the finish line, but Birds of Maya keep going and they do it well. The sides of the LP are subtitled "Friday", "Saturday" and "Sunday" and would work incredibly well as a soundtrack to your ragers on those days. Oddly enough, "Sunday" takes up the whole second LP and it is the best of the three songs here. With its blues-psych guitar freak out and hazy vocals, it is something you you have probably heard some version of before but it sounds great. Birds of Maya seem to be riding exclusively on a good times, don't harsh our mellow riff train and it rubs off on the listener. It isn't a perfect record but it is definitely an enjoyable one and I left each extended listen feeling pretty damn good. Birds member Mike Polizzo did the recent Purling Hiss record which was cool too. For sale through the inimitable Richie Records, get itHERE.

Condominium and their latest 7-inch "Gag Out" on Deer Healer Label has/will get lumped in with the mysterious-guy hardcore (they don't have a MySpace!), Youth Attack (their music is dark!), etc. strains of hardcore currently in vogue with dudes who aren't always entirely interested in hardcore, bands like Vile Gash, Slices, Cult Ritual (RIP), Dry Rot and the rest of their ilk. I like all of those bands and I am not someone who is always interested in hardcore, so I guess I fit into the caricature I just wrote. Whatever, I am just trying to state some FACTS. In the end, based on the above self-criticism and my musical tastes, it makes sense that I would enjoy this new release by Condominium. Side a, "Gag," is a nearly seven minute sluggish ode to anxiety. I don't know if it is about anxiety actually, all I know is that there is a lyric about having someone shit in your mouth and the track escalates into a thrashing, sludgy monster. Weird punk? Side b is more traditional but it works. "Redemption Song" features everything you need for a satisfactory hardcore song—solid guitar, lyrical repetition, you can imagine violence set to it—and the less intense instrumental track, "The Entire Human Body," is enjoyable as well. There are only a few copies left so get it now from Deer Healer Records HERE.


Jamie Johns

4304 Lerner Hall

2920 Broadway

New York, NY 10027


From The Collection:

Freak Scene
Posted: April 26, 2010
Freak Scene #55: Stress Ape, Birds of Maya and Condominium