Pressing Concerns: The Antelopes, Trevor Nikrant, Big Heet, Hans Condor

In this eclectic edition of Pressing Concerns, Rosy Overdrives discusses new records from Trevor Nikrant (of Styrofoam Winos), Big Heet, and Hans Condor, as well as Floating Mill Records’ reissue of London post-punk band The Antelopes’ discography.

If you’re looking for more new music, you can browse previous editions of Pressing Concerns or visit the site directory.

The Antelopes – Breaking News

Release date: November 5th
Record label: Floating Mill
Genre: Post-punk, dance punk
Formats: Cassette, CD, vinyl (single only), digital
Pull track: How Can We Dance (With Our Backs Up to the Wall)

Right on the heels of their reissue of Tampa band The Stick Figures’ late 70s/early 80s recordings, Pittsburgh’s Floating Mill Records have unearthed another lost post-punk band, this time from across the pond. Formed by three braille translators (guitarist/vocalist Glenn Dallender, bassist Martin O’Keefe-Liddard, and guitarist Steve Empson) and a pub worker (vocalist Tilly Vosburgh) and later adding a drummer (Vince Brown), The Antelopes originally lasted long enough to make a single six-song recording session in 1981. Their only release was a 7” single comprised of two of those recordings, and although the London band self-reissued some of their material last year, Breaking News seems to be a comprehensive physical document of all the band’s output as well as a few bonus tracks from an Antelopes offshoot called The Class of ‘76.

The two tracks that made up The Antelopes’ lone single (which Floating Mill has also reissued) paint the band as practitioners of the dark, moody post-punk that was typical of British bands around this time. This isn’t to say that they aren’t great—the “epic scream” that Vosburgh unleashes near the end of the claustrophobic “Hour of Light” alone is worth the price of admission—but it’s the previously unreleased tracks that are the most intriguing aspect of The Antelopes to me. These songs find the group dabbling in everything from psychedelia (“10,000 Flies Can’t be Wrong”) to groove-rock (“Keys to the Kingdom”) to country-rock (“Mississippi Line”), suggesting a band capable of a wide range of sounds that merely chose the two songs most in-line with what was going on around them to release.

The rhythm section of “Keys to the Kingdom” is perhaps the most obvious path to the final three songs on Breaking News: a group of previously-unreleased recordings from Dallender and Brown’s post-Antelopes band, The Class of ’76 (which also featured bassist Martin Grant and a host of rotating vocalists and/or guitarists including Rupert Sweeney, Chris Homewood, and Mark and Paul Brandon). Like The Stick Figures across the Atlantic, The Class of ’76—an excellent name for a post-punk band, by the way—also cited Parliament/Funkadelic as an inspiration for their groovy funk rock, and songs like “Going Nowhere (My Hands Are Tied)” have more in common with Chic than The Cure. Listen to Breaking News all the way through and it feels like a natural progression, but it would be shocking to hear the slap bass agitprop of “Uprising” and the mopey Joy Division plod of “Prisoners” back-to-back. Even more impressive than this range, however, is that both ends of Breaking News are compelling. (Bandcamp link)

Trevor Nikrant – Tall Ladders

Release date: November 19th
Record label: Dear Life
Genre: Folk rock, dream folk
Formats: Cassette, CD, digital
Pull track: We Need You for Our Plan

True Rosy Overdrive heads will recall Trevor Nikrant as one-third of the Nashville group Styrofoam Winos, who appeared in Pressing Concerns way back in February of this year. All three Winos have had solo careers beyond their band, and Nikrant is the latest to step out on his own. Tall Ladders is Nikrant’s first proper solo album in nearly four years, and he’s deemed it a “sonic and thematic sequel” to that last one, 2018’s Living in the Kingdom. As hinted at by that record and his contributions to Styrofoam Winos, Tall Ladders is an abstract folk/country album that sounds very David Berman-influenced in several spots. Nikrant is not the only member of the modern Americana movement to find inspiration in the Silver Jews; traces of Berman can be found on both his own label’s roster and among the acts on Styrofam Winos’ label. Unlike a lot of his peers, however, it’s not a “lo-fi” or “punked-up” version of this sound—in fact, Nikrant runs all the way to the other side of the spectrum with Tall Ladders.

Outside of opening track “Panic @ the Café”, which comes off as a slightly more subdued version of Styrofoam Winos’ “Stuck in a Museum”, Tall Ladders is a languid, meandering take on dreamy indie folk-rock. The rougher edges of Living in the Kingdom and Styrofoam Winos have been largely sanded down here, giving way to an expanded instrumental pallet and some eyebrow-raising song lengths. Tracks like the gently-picked “We Need You for Our Plan” almost remind me of Dagger Beach-era John Vanderslice, featuring studio flourishes colliding with more austere indie folk-rock songwriting. “Dead Skin”, something of the album’s centerpiece, floats into eight-minute territory aided by slow-marching piano and a smartly-harnessed wall of sound, while “Slow Notion” introduces sad horns into the fray in one of the moments that most recalls 2000s maximalist indie folk It’s all done in Nikrant’s own subtle way, however—he always sounds in control of everything around him on Tall Ladders. (Bandcamp link)

Big Heet – Playing the Bug

Release date: November 19th
Record label: Living Lost
Genre: Post-punk, noise rock
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull track: Body of Noise

It’s been a nice and balanced year for David Settle. Although the Philadelphia-based musician also released three records in 2020, this year’s trio are evenly split among Settle’s current bands: February saw the lo-fi psych-pop of The Fragiles’ On and On, the garage-rock fuzzy power pop of Psychic Flowers’ For the Undertow followed in July, and for this month he’s returned to the longest-running of the three acts, Big Heet, for that project’s third album (oh, and he also released a cassette compilation of recording sessions culled from his Under the First Floor podcast). Although Settle’s other two bands are different from one another in their own ways, Big Heet is increasingly the odd one out among the three. It’s the one that isn’t primarily “pop”, instead inspired by underground noise rock and post-punk: everything from Blonde Redhead to Devo to Wire runs through Playing the Bug.

As anyone familiar with the previously-mentioned bands knows, these reference points should give Settle a lot of different sounds and styles with which to work. Album opener “Body of Noise” (featuring lead guitar from Jon Samuels of 2nd Grade and Friendship) is a motorik, somewhat restrained beginning that doesn’t quite sound like any Settle project, while “Life Is Limitless” is modern meaty post-punk at its crunchy, fidgety best. If there’s such a thing as a “classic Big Heet” sound, it’s exemplified by the rhythm-section-heavy garage-y egg punk of Playing the Bug’s midgut—songs like the needs-no-further-explanation mumbling of “American Reichstag” or the treadmill bark of “Octogenarians”. Closing track “Gilded Hand” reminds me of the recent strain of indie rock/hardcore hybrid bands like Militarie Gun, even though it’s still recognizably Big Heet. At eight songs and 18 minutes, Playing the Bug is the slightest of Settle’s 2021 releases, but Playing the Bug gives us plenty on which to chew. (Bandcamp link)

Hans Condor – Breaking & Entering

Release date: November 16th
Record label: Dial Back Sound
Genre: Garage rock, garage punk
Formats: Vinyl, CD, digital
Pull track: Breaking & Entering

The Nashville garage punk trio Hans Condor recorded Breaking & Entering several years ago, half at RCA’s historical Grand Victor Sound and half in something called “The Shed”, which is presumably not quite as renowned. Soong afterword, however,, “a series of managerial and personal snags” that were punctuated by the tragic death of bassist Erik Holcombe led to Hans Condor taking an indefinite hiatus and these songs gathering dust at Mississippi’s Dial Back Sound studio and label. The reuniting of the remaining members of the band last year has inspired Hans Condor and Dial Back Sound to finally let these songs loose into the light of day, consequences be damned. Breaking & Entering is for those who like their garage rock at its most unhinged and threatening: even disregarding its felonious title, glancing at its tracklist also reveals gems such as “Blood on the Rug”, “Hardwired for Death”, and “Pent-Up Aggression”.

Lead singer Charles Kaster barks and howls his way through the pure chaos of opener “Rock n Roll Animal” and screams appropriately along to “All Messed Up on Death Metal and Shit” among others, but the (admittedly only by comparison) restraint of the title track and “Pent-Up Aggression” suggest that Hans Condor can hold themselves together long enough to bust out a killer punk rock tune whenever they’ve got one to deliver. And that’s not even taking into account “Hannah Van Condor”, the acoustic closing track that seems to have been directly lifted from a ten-year-old video session, in which the band sing a elegy to their recently deceased tour van through the static of something on a completely different planet than “professional audio quality”. It’s somehow both completely different than and extremely appropriate for Hans Condor. (Bandcamp link)

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