A few months back a post on Facebook caught my eye. A Seattle-based art collective called Fainting Room started up a label called, fittingly, Fainting Room Records, and they were releasing a collection of six 7″ records each by a different Seattle area band. If that isn’t right in my wheelhouse I don’t know what is. So I sent them my $35, and in the mail arrived my six records, bound together with ribbon/paper (♠), along with a nice little canvas tote bag that Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane quickly claimed as her own. For some reason, though, I sort of lost track of these for a while, and I’m only just now sitting down to listen to them for the first time.
Haunted Horses hit you right between the eyes right from the opening track of their four-song 7″. “Crown” is an aggressive industrial rock monster, edgy and abrasive, a blend of horror and hopelessness. That’s followed by the relentless and equally haunting “Pariahs,” driven forward by pounding drums that don’t give you a moment of respite. I was trying to think of what I could compare Haunted Horses to, and the best I could come up with is Big Black meets Skinny Puppy, but what separates the Horses from that pair is the drumming, which comes across as real and organic, not the canned drum machine sounds I associate with those other bands. That drumming will be stuck in my head for hours, and it’s the key to Haunted Horses’ vibe.
The second record in the set is by Stickers and they represents a bit of a 180 from Haunted Horses, with a female-fronted poppy style of post-punk. The sound is driven by the dreamy bass that seems to meander through and around the songs like water, with the other sounds sometimes floating on the surface of it and other times completely enveloped by it. Gabi Page-Fort’s vocals are the icing on the cake – she can sing and she can howl, sometimes seemingly at the same time. I’m a total sucker for punk and post-punk bands with female vocalists, and I’m digging Stickers enough that I think I’m going to need to buy a copy of their 2014 LP Swollen. (♣)
Next up is Bali Girls, who deliver a more recognizable hard rock sound. In fact, this 7″ reminds me of the things I liked about early grunge – it’s raw and a bit disorganized without being sloppy. It just feels real. The guitars drive the music, which is heavy and driving like the footsteps of some kind of giant or something. The record only contains one song, the 8+ minute “Heavy Boots” which is split across the two sides of vinyl. The download is technically two tracks as well, but it plays straight through like it was one song.
Transmissionary bring a more dream-pop style to the mix, with occasional elements of prog, rock, and even some shoegaze. The bass pushes the tempo and the vocals are trippy and are like a wave that exists above the level of the music, completely separate and existing on it’s own existential plane. Each song feels like two separate pieces – the parts with the vocals, which are dreamy and floating, and the parts without vocals, which are more prog. It’s an interesting dichotomy.
I like me some sleazy psych rock, so I was into The Family Curse right from the opening of “Loving Kind.” Vocally these songs are fuzzy and lo-fi, though the music maintains a dose of sonic clarity that separates The Family Curse from other modern psych bands. “Firescene” sees the Curse move in a more metal direction, one that works for them and is my favorite of their four tracks. It’s aggressive and edgy, with a weight to the guitars that reminds me a bit of Pantera.
Last but far from least we have He Whose Ox Is Gored and their blend of shoegaze and psych, with distortion and reverb all over the place. Is metal shoegaze a genre? If not, it might need to be. There’s some serious sonic density here, with every microsecond of space being filed by a cacophony of sounds. Amy Billharz’s vocals are like a fourth instrument in how she contributes to the song structures, and she’s got a lot of power in that voice.
I’ve seen various numbers thrown around about how many copies of this release were put out, but it looks like 375 is the correct number. I haven’t actually opened mine yet (I listened to the downloads), so I’m not sure if there’s something inside that clarifies the situation. Regardless, the set is still available through Fainting Room Collective, so if you’re interested you can still pick one up. Top to bottom, all six bands are great, and the mix of styles means that there’s a good chance you’re going to find something you like.
(♠) While it’s described as a “box set” there is, in fact, no box involved.
(♣) In fact during the period between writing this and posting it, I did in fact order a copy of Swollen. I also learned that unfortunately Stickers have broken up.