The club lights are low. The dance floor is a sweaty blur of shadows. You can feel the blood and adrenaline surging through the crowd. There's a band on-stage and they are telepathically connected to the audience—making bodies bounce like it was a feat of mind control. This is Moving Units and this is their natural element: unadulterated grooves and constant motion.
The most difficult task for a scorching live band is replicating that energy in the studio. And on their third LP, Neurotic Exotic, Moving Units succeed with the same acrobatic agility, flamboyance, and dark erotic imagery they've channeled since their inception.
The tone is set from the title of the first song: Attack Everything. There is no time to hesitate and nothing is left behind. It is a 40-minute blitzkrieg of searing sexy guitar riffs, propulsive synthesizer riffs, and urgent drums fit to detonate any dance floor.
Think a long-lost album of Italo-disco covers of Sonic Youth songs and you begin to get close.
It's about that universal experience and adventure of being young and free to ramble, " says Blake Miller, founder of Moving Units. "It attempts to capture the same feeling you get whether you're exploring the city with your friends or road tripping across the country. And of course, it still brings the sleazy sweaty live dance party feel that Moving Units was founded on. "
Moving Units have bottled this since their 2002 EP debut. When Blake Miller first started writing demos and recruiting band mates to help expand his vision, the idea of fusing dance music and indie rock was practically alien. Alongside groups like Franz Ferdinand, The Killer, and Bloc Party, Moving Units were at the vanguard of bringing body-rocking grooves to scythe-edged rock and roll.
"Back then, no one danced at shows in LA. There were always industry people trying to play it cool," Miller says." We wanted to shake things up and make people dance."
Tastes have changed. Members have joined and left the band. And this is the first Moving Units full-length in six years. But the locomotion inspired by their music remains immutable. Credit the ease with which Miller has merged into contemporary dance culture. A DJ himself, Miller's remixes with Steve Aoki have earned tens of thousands of spins worldwide.
Time as a band breeds experience, yielding commitment to a cause and cementing a career path. This is something Plague Vendor has learned. The foursome, who emerged from a practice space in Whittier, CA in 2009, started by playing endless live shows around Southern California, filling everywhere from backyard parties to clubs to festivals with their raucous, formidable music. At the heart of every show, no matter the venue, was sincere energy and spirit, always resulting in a snarling, frenetic performance. The shows stacked up, accumulating every year, and eventually birthed Plague Vendor’s 2014 debut album Free To Eat, a dark, thrashing collection that clocked in at less than twenty minutes.
But the album, brash and aptly terse, was just an appetizer to the main course. The band’s sophomore effort, Bloodsweat, vastly expands on the sonic territory explored in their debut. Recorded over the course of two weeks in April of 2015 with producer and engineer Stuart Sikes (The Walkmen, Cat Power, Modest Mouse), the album takes a natural approach to Plague Vendor’s music. The musicians aimed to capture each track in as few takes as possible, avoiding many overdubs and embracing the same minimal production they bring to their live performances. Nearly all of the eleven songs on Bloodsweat were heavily road-tested, imagined and re-imagined live before ever making it into the studio.
From opening number “Anchor To Ankles” to closer “Got It Bad,” Bloodsweat reveals a purposeful narrative arc, taking the listener through songs that veer rapidly from aggressive thrash to melodic introspection. Together, the songs recount the last few years of the musicians’ lives, revealing the sacrifices they’ve made and the dedication they’ve embraced to become the band they’ve become. “Jezebel,” the disc’s flagship single, exemplifies the style Plague Vendor has dubbed “voodoo punk” a dance-fueled rock aesthetic tinged with shadowy darkness. The band’s influences, which range from At the Drive-In to Liars to The Cramps, are apparent but not overly obvious throughout.
Plague Vendor’s live show has shifted as they’ve developed these new songs, too. They’ve swapped out shock value for raw vulnerability onstage and the four musicians aim to create the most sound and the most intensity with the least possible utility and equipment. Palpable tension comes from the sense that anything could happen, but mostly Plague Vendor is interested in simplicity and the sort of expressive nakedness that can come from stripping everything away. It’s clear the band has sacrificed their formative don’t-give-a-fuck punk attitude for sincerity and gratitude, acknowledging the fans who’ve helped them arrive here now.
Bloodsweat invokes its own name as it unfurls, its songs edged with a sense of danger and vulnerability. It’s the product of a band who have traveled far and whose travels have committed them even further to themselves. As you hear it, as its songs surge outward, it announces: This is who Plague Vendor is now.
Plague Vendor is:
Brandon Blaine – Vocals
Luke Perine – Drums
Michael Perez – Bass
Jay Rogers – Guitar
Second Still is a three-piece coldwave band formed in New York in early 2014. The name comes from the first song of Modern Eon's debut album Fiction Tales. Taking influence from bands like Sad Lovers and Giants, The Chameleons, and Asylum Party, Second Still pays homage to early post-punk and darkwave and modernized it with electronic elements and unconventional song structures. The band is currently writing, recording, and playing shows and Second Still's songs have been featured on international podcasts and radio shows since summer 2014.