Various Artists – Narnack Records Sampler

Various Artists
Narnack Records Sampler

Narnack Records is a New York-based indie label that seems to specialize in hard-to-categorize music. Their Narnack Records Sampler features 15 tracks from seven different artists, and the music ranges from noisy rock to old-style punk to country-blues and every combination thereof. While the variation in styles makes it difficult to summarize this disc in one sentence, it’s safe to say that most of the bands have a definite “underground” sound, with raw production and lots of experimentation. You probably won’t find any of these artists getting top-40 radio play in the near future.
The sampler starts and finishes with two noisy punk numbers from Guitar Wolf, a black-leather-clad trio from Tokyo, Japan. They prove they can shatter an eardrum just as well as any toothless American or Brit; the music is fast and sloppy, with pounding bass lines, screaming feedback, and a classic “One! Two! Three! Four!” vocal intro on “UFO Romantics.” Coachwhips continues the noise assault with three tracks that are not quite punk and not quite new-wave; it is all noisy, to be sure, with distorted vocals and a heavier emphasis on drums than guitars. They modify the sound of traditional punk by adding other weirdness such as slow-motion choruses and atonal embellishments.
Next up is the first of two tracks from the Portland, Oregon duo Nice Nice. Their music is definitely not conventional – meandering and instrumental, it reminds me more of the hidden track on Nirvana’s Nevermind than anything from the punk era. San Fransico-based Condor continue the weirdness, melding guitar distortion with keyboard effects and vocals that remind me of McLusky. Overall, however, the sound is highly retro, and listening to this might make it easy to forget that the 90s ever happened. The long, slow building interlude in “Metrognome” brings back memories of Joy Division’s “No Love Lost” and it’s eerie, sporadic shouting.
Shesus is a buzz-band that includes a variety of brand-name female musicians, including an ex-Breeder. Their music is still loud, but more accessible than other artists on the label, with a clean sound and intelligible vocals. Friends of Dean Martinez round out the punk portion of the sampler with two short, instrumental tracks that are in a similar vein to many of the other artists featured earlier on the disc. Finally, standing out like a sore thumb on this sampler – but in a very good way – are two tracks from Langhorne Slim. These guys replace grinding guitars with the bluegrass twang of a banjo and the mournful wail of a lead singer that would fit right at home on 1950s country radio, if it were not for their more angsty edge and occasional four-letter word.
While the styles are different, each of the artists on this sampler seem to share a taste for fearless originality and a desire to be different. There are no obvious duds amongst these bands, and this sampler might be an economical way to judge for yourself which new up-and-comers deserve further investigation.