by Brian J. Audette
Punk genre-benders Borzoi are poised to head out on tour with fellow locals Leche this week and to kick-off the whole affair, the duo have dropped a split EP of new off-kilter songs. Now, Leche is not a group I was familiar with before this split, though considering the large number of local acts, even confined to just the more punkish circles, that’s no surprise. Doing a little digging, I uncovered what sounded like a more-or-less proto or early post-hardcore punk band in Leche: bold, brash, and just a little crusty around the edges. Borzoi, on the other hand, I’ve covered before, and they seem to excel at not being pinned down. Sometimes hardcore, sometimes classic punk, sometimes straight up rock-and-roll, the one constant for Borzoi seems to be no constant at all. Together on Pagan Moon both acts seem to have taken on a swampy, hillbilly lilt, producing several tracks of hazy, hot, and humid music straight-out of the bayou or the holler.
The 8-song EP opens with the instrumental “Mountain Surrender,” a jumbled back porch banjo affair that does a pretty good job of setting the mood for what’s to come. Leche lead us off after that with “Carl’s Bangin’ Snake Juice,” a moonshiner’s parable about stickin’ it to the man, full of psychobilly speed and twang. Opening with the slow drawl of a fuzzed out guitar in the midst of being tuned down, the track quickly picks up speed as the drums and vocals kick in, telling the tale of a fed on the prowl and Carl’s deadly spiked ‘shine.
Borzoi’s “Yeti” shows up next, a messy affair with super stripped down guitars, psychotic vocals, and frantically brilliant drumming. It’s a fun if not ultimately forgettable track. Leche return next with “No Snow, No Show” a rock-and-roll drug anthem played at the break neck pace of early California hardcore. Following that is the split’s longest track. Clocking in at around five minutes, Borzoi’s “Nice” is next on the rotation. Similar to “Yeti” before it, the song is anchored by bare bones guitars and solid drumming, though towards the end it takes on an almost 70’s lounge flavor. The most “artsy” track on this EP, “Nice” feels like the composition notebook ramblings of a psychopath stalker put to music. The result is unsettling, but almost beautifully so.
Leche’s “Stop Resisting” is another classic sounding hardcore track: short, fast, and full of complaints about overbearing cops. On “Fire Sermon” Borzoi again shift shapes, this time bringing some southern twang on guitar and bar room reverb on the vocals. Lyrically we’re back down in the holler with fire and brimstone preachers, gallows ropes, and bumpkin bigotry, all of which the narrator summarily rejects while spitting square in its eye. The album closes on “Unease/Ship” an angular, angst-filled piece fretting over college and kids, an odd and yet fitting outro to a bizarre collection of songs.
As a whole, Pagan Moon is a schizophrenic sum of its parts, filled with hardcore, hillbilly nightmare stalker diaries, drugs, and existential dread. The recordings vary in quality, several tracks sounding like they were lifted off a boombox, transferred to vinyl, and then re-recorded. Other tracks are surprisingly crisp by comparison, but overall the split definitely sports a stripped-down early punk ethos and along with it a complete lack of fucks given about what anyone might think about that. While I’m sure fans of both Leche and Borzoi will get a kick out of this split, its primary audience may just be the bands themselves. At best I can say that the split did grow on me after a couple listens. At worst it’s something new on the merch table for the coming tour and hell… better to record and release than to have never recorded at all.
Borzoi and Leche will be on tour for the remainder of June and through early July. They kick off their tour tonight at Beerland with Vampyre and Super Thief.
Brian Audette lives somewhere in Austin within a pillow fort made of broken dreams. He only comes out to see shows and buy beer. He has a surprisingly well maintained lawn and is using it to breed an army of attack mosquitoes with which to take over the world. Brian can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @bjaudette.