The idea of “punk heroes” might seem laughable in 2013, but if such a term ever carried meaning then Dracula Lewis certainly deserves it, says Daniel Jones.
In an industrial area of Berlin’s Neukölln district, the windows of a concrete warehouse are being shaken from their frames. It’s three in the morning. An industrial fog machine is being blasted like a cannon into the faces of 200 sweaty weirdos, all encircled by four Funktion-Ones. In the center stands a long-haired man, battering his synthesizer and spitting his voice out like poison. Welcome to the place where graves are in style and raves are defiled, the sound of a world where every day is heat, smoke, and thrashing blissed-out weirdness. This is the world of Dracula Lewis.
As the man behind DIY record label Hundebiss, Simone Trabucchi has been propagating his uniquely synthpunkian tastes into shattered ears since 2007, providing outlets for the voices of Sewn Leather, JAWS, Angels In America and other titillating bits of oddness. His debut U$e Your Illu$ion$ has many of the elements present in so many Hundebiss releases—heavy vibes, throbbing bass, and a shattered sort of neutral nastiness about it, like an apathetic switchblade contemplating a vein. What makes it stand out is not only its weirdly cheeky humor, but also its surprisingly addictive compositions.
The album opens with a quote from the X-Files classic episode “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’”, a bit of eye-twinkle beneath the black shades and one of the defining moments in the career of Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura. From there, it’s relentless, a nonstop blast of noisiness… yet it never crosses the line into abrasive. It’s this factor that makes U$e Your Illu$ion$ such a perfect record. It’s highly listenable not only as a showcase of aural oddity, but as actual songs. Anyone can put out “weird” music these days; just toggle the Garageband setting to “Ariel Pink”, punch a keyboard and sign up for Soundcloud. When you can make it memorable, then you know you have something. Halfway through the album’s third track “Cheetah”, I realized I was singing the chorus quite a bit louder than the other people on the train would have appreciated. Even more, it manages to capture how powerful Dracula Lewis is live; there’s an intensity in every one of the 11 tracks here that a lesser artist couldn’t convey over a decade-long discography. I daresay you could even drop a few on an open-minded dance floor; the cosmic-tinged hip-hop influence of “Gleaming Dis Cube”, the blown-out collapse of “Sparkle Flesh”, and the chugging bass of “Working Class Hell-Hole” in particular are exactly the sort of things I’d love to slip in to a set.
U$e Your Illu$ion$ is the modern equivalent to all the experimental albums of my childhood. It’s sick and rad and a bunch of other phrases that I liked to say when I was fourteen and still say, sometimes, when things just deserve it. Embedded within, you’ll find traces of Public Image Ltd.’s revolutionary dub-punk, the asexual artdustrial of Virgin Prunes, and the sleazy, lurching electronics of Suicide, yet these are merely reference points for the initiated. Imagine the kid who picks this up without prior knowledge of these sorts of things. I’m imagining it now, and wishing I was him again. The idea of “punk heroes” might seem laughable in 2013, but if such a term ever carried meaning then Trabucchi certainly deserves it. From the work he’s done with Hundebiss and leading up to this excellent release, he’s proof that DIY or DIE is more than just a phrase to be painted on a jacket.
U$e Your Illu$ion$ is out now; order it and stream it in full.
Sewn Leather isn’t the sort of one-man musician you would ever refer to as a ‘producer’. If you did, he’d probably go “What?” and wander off to drink somewhere. The audio output of Griffin Pyn is punk, but punk of the non-uniform sort—here you’ll find cassette-tape loops, oozing analog synthesizers and touches of shattered hip-hop and dub reggae beats. His records are rather like combining every dirty, sweaty all-ages weirdo show you ever saw in a 50-person basement in some godforsaken part of Brooklyn at 3 a.m. and then condensing the audio (including the background noises) into one blown-out chunk. Now just imagine how amazing the live show is.
His latest release on Hundebiss, the Asbestos Attik Inzanity 7″, consists of two outtakes from his previous full-length Sikkknastafari Slash Crasstafari. “Illumiknotty Dread” is a barrage of laser-blast synth that sputter with Pyn’s indistinct vocals half-buried beneath, though at one point you can clearly make out, “Yeah, I don’t know how to end this new song here…”. It’s the sort of snotty, who-gives-a-shit attitude that could seem really put-on and obnoxious if you had no context for it, but having seen Pyn several times I can safely say that this is proper lifestyle stuff. Dude gives it his all, but he certainly gives no shits—garbled samples are thrown into the mix with little context themselves, and the entire song structure shifts several times apparently on a whim. “Space Sleng Police Teng” is a touched more focused (or as focused as we’re likely to get, anyway); a throbbing piece of industrial hatred that soon descends into sing-songy madness, possibly ad-libbed. It’s crudely brilliant realness that stands out in a time when the word “punk” feels cheaper than ever.
Admittedly, Pyn’s particular brand of phlegmy synth junk isn’t for everyone. At a recent karaoke event I was hosting, a friend and I did what we felt was a rather dead-on cover of “Monotone Killer“. The bartender came up halfway and rather sternly told us that, “there are people here still trying to enjoy their drinks”. But if you crave a scuzzier, punkier touch to your electronics, toss away the disinfectant wipes and pick this up instead. For some similar vibes, check out frequent collaborator DJ Dog Dick‘s new EP Identity as well.
Hundebiss Records is constantly releasing fantastic stuff.
From the experimental radio noise of Angels USA (also known as Angels In America, also known as ‘will you marry me’) and the stoner-crustgoth chaos of Sewn Leather to the cosgasmic nightmares of Stargate and the syrupy hip hop evil of Lil Ugly Mane, it’s a name that’s come to stand for diverse quality, wherever freak flags fly.
On November 12, label owner Dracula Lewis is dropping his very first 12″ on Souterrain Transmissions. ‘Permafrost’ is exactly what you’d expect from the man behind Hundebiss, in all the most perfect ways. The videos for the title track and B-side ‘Marble Eyez’ are below. Listen and understand: you need this.