Vermont musicians aren't letting up in 2022 — the records keep coming, flying onto the music desk as if I had an army of interns to catalog it all. Well, I don't! So it's spring cleaning week, when I check in on new releases, some records I've been meaning to get to and a few I missed. The selection is all over the spectrum, from hip-hop and folk to experimental noise and hardcore punk. The local scene is as robust as it is eclectic, so let's take a tour, shall we?
Montpelier never starves for good folk music. Hell, it even has a Hogwarts for folkies, the Summit School of Traditional Music and Culture. Something about the capital region seems to speak to music with deep, old roots. The latest offering from that scene is Lavendula, a femme-led trio composed of Lilith Smith on guitar, Henri June Bynx on banjo and Johanna Rose on upright bass. All three women share vocal duties, often harmonizing to great effect. The band first appeared busking at a farmers market in 2021 but was soon gigging regularly. The release of its self-titled debut EP followed shortly after. It's a rudimentary introduction to Lavendula, as the recording contains only three tracks, all of which are covers — though the band notes on its Bandcamp page plans to record original material soon. Still, its members' voices and chemistry come through on Lavendula, a promising sign for a young band.
Key Track: "Silver Dagger" Why: Lavendula ably handle a classic folk ballad made popular by Joan Baez and Dolly Parton. Where: lavendula.bandcamp.com
Glacial Erratics, Gneiss Schist (HT 061)
(Histamine Tapes, cassette, digital)
I love getting releases from Histamine Tapes. I both know and don't know what I'm going to hear. On the one hand, I can be sure it's going to be experimental music, hovering within the eldritch realms of ambient, drone and full-on noise. Other than that, there could be anything on these tapes. The label's latest release, Gneiss Schist (HT 061), from noise trio Glacial Erratics, continues that trend with a three-song, 40-minute collection of beeping electronics, broken-apart drumbeats and the kind of soundscapes you hear right as the mushrooms wear off. Michael Braun does a lot of the noise work with his bass clarinet and various electronics, laying swaths of garish color over Nick Dentico's frenetic bass lines. Steven Lichti brings an almost free-jazz feel to the drums, dropping bread crumbs of beats.
Key Track: "Disputed Lithologies" Why: Past all the chaotic noise, the group builds a heavy tension that feels like the score to the strangest film ever. Where: histaminetapes.bandcamp.com/album/gneiss-schist-ht-061
Void Bringer, Youth Dispute, Split EP
(Second Republic Records, cassette, digital)
Sure, this is a collection of six reviews, but I'm squeezing a split EP in to cheat a little — a recording with two Vermont bands, no less. And what a combo of bands: Hardcore punk acts Void Bringer and Youth Dispute smash together their brutal brand of power violence in an eight-song EP that doesn't have a single track more than two minutes long. Only the heavily initiated would be able to tell where one band ends and the other begins. Both acts feature songs of blazing speed, unintelligible vocals that come out like a drunk berating someone at a show, and a noise quotient that seems ready to blow out shitty PAs in dive bars and basements alike. The EP is the latest release from Second Republic Records, founded by Void Bringer and Sachem guitarist Andrew Glynn. Extra points for its album cover featuring Vermont's famous plesiosaur/spooky fish, Champ, rising from the depths of Lake Champlain, ready to destroy a Vermont State Police boat. Champ is ACAB? That's metal.
Key Track: "Bootlicker" Why: Void Bringer ride a riff so massive and distorted, you can almost see the mosh pit forming. Where: voidbringer802.bandcamp.com
Nova Charm, Bracelet
(Pain Management Group, digital)
Burlington's Nova Charm are composed of producer N.O.I.S.E.W.I.Z.A.R.D. and rapper DIE the MONK. The two artists come together on a record of underground and, at times, experimental hip-hop reminiscent of Seattle's Shabazz Palaces — with hints of Death Grips thrown in for good measure. N.O.I.S.E.W.I.Z.A.R.D.'s industrial beats are propulsive as DIE unleashes lyrics full of paranoia and aggression. It's from a subgenre of hip-hop not often found in the local scene and has all the grime of a Skinny Puppy album. Many of the sounds and beats were created from sampling everyday objects; DIE then layers them in his trap-leaning, seething lyrical flow. Bracelet is a powerful and fully fleshed-out debut.
Key Track: "Bozo" Why: The record's first single leaps out with a pounding beat and some of the album's best lyrics. Where: Spotify
Dylan Patrick Ward, Loveable Losers
A few weeks ago, an artist who was born in Bellows Falls told me it wasn't exactly a fostering environment for a creative type, at least when he was growing up. As if on command, I received several submissions from Bellows Falls musicians, including the latest from Dylan Patrick Ward. The singer-songwriter from southern Vermont fits into that specific niche of indie folk alongside Henry Jamison, with hyper-literate lyrics and a dark sense of humor. Loveable Losers is a pretty lo-fi affair, recorded at the home of Ward's friend and fellow musician Nate Goyette. But the bare-bones nature of the tracks serves the dry, sardonic tones of Ward's songs. Score one for Bellows Falls.
Key Track: "The Road Is..." Why: Ward takes on the trope of the troubadour life and calls bullshit with lyrics such as "The road is just a big strip of concrete that makes you feel small." Where: dylanpatrickward.bandcamp.com
Amelia Wilcox, Better Versions
Amelia Wilcox recorded her latest EP, Better Versions, for the annual RPM Challenge. The noncompetitive event tasks musicians across the globe with writing and recording original music during the month of February. They must submit the new works on March 1. Wilcox wrote five new tracks of tender, ambient pop, which she calls "love songs to sing to yourself and to your loved ones." The Burlington-based songwriter, who is also one-half of the cross-continental indie outfit Lavenderlux, crafts a gorgeously affecting EP of gentle synths and laid-back beats underpinned by her ethereal vocals. Wilcox's capacity to make an EP this good in a month is reason to be excited about the prospect of a full-length LP.
Key Track: "We Are Dreaming" Why: Wilcox captures the vibe of new lovers with poetic lyrics such as "You close your eyes / I open mine / I'm a cup on the bedside / Evaporating into thin air." Where: ameliawilcox.bandcamp.com