2012 is another banner year for L.I.E.S. Despite the label’s aggressive release schedule and forays into new stylistic territory this year, each release still speaks to its unique, punk-lensed take on house and techno. Label head, Ron Morelli, teams up with fellow New Yorker Lee Douglas — known for his cosmic disco for Rong Music — as Bad News for a couple of brutalist drum-machine workouts on Real Bad News. It’s stripped down enough to pass for a back-to-basics move from a label that’s most recently delved into oozing VHS soundtracks and mystical Middle Eastern themes. What it ultimately does is reaffirm the self-sufficient ethos that ties the catalogue together.
A-side, “Real Bad News,” has the duo pushing a rugged, choppy house rhythm into the red. The lo-res sounds pile on with pitch-bent hi-hats, a disruptive synth line, and the obligatory vocal fragment, all locked into an unyielding groove. This isn’t music that wants to be liked, it wants your submission. When a grainy, blown-up bass line descends on the track, it maintains a steely momentum even as everything else drops out. Where the first side finds the duo’s gear on the verge of meltdown, “More Bad News” takes things further: the human presence is almost out of frame, as if the machines have become sentient. The track that builds around its initial limping gait points to militant techno forebears like Underground Resistance, but the sounds are starker and more distorted: the vocal sample this time around is buried under industrial carnage, an isolated blown-PA yowl. It begs images of Ancient Methods working with a Casio SK-1, but even amid the moments of gasket-frying chaos, there’s a finesse to the violence that keeps it from going too deep into noise territory. Judging from Douglas’s previous work, it would seem Bad News is Morelli’s show, a periodic reminder of the label’s guiding principles.