If, over the last three years or so, you’ve found yourself involved in any left-of-center music scene in New York City, there’s a good chance you’ve caught at least one Deli Girls set. I’ve seen the duo—composed of Tommi Kelly and Danny Orlowski—play their chaotic punk-techno tracks at hardcore shows and techno clubs, opening for indie rock acts and industrial torturers. One recent memorable set was in a weird metal room in an old warehouse that kinda felt like a meat locker on a bill that featured technoid trippers, freaked-out rappers, and several straight up noise sets. The pit was wild enough during the Delis’ set to unplug some crucial wiring and cut the whole thing short. Once it got back going I took a kick to the shin that I felt for weeks.
I relate all this both to demonstrate that they are real grinders—it kinda feels like you could see Deli Girls every weekend if you had the will and means—and that they’re skilled navigators of the blurry, ecstatic, dangerous spaces between established sounds and scenes. Live, Kelly bashes out these busted up beats and samples that feel equally of a piece with Ronny J’s running-through-a-brick-wall rap beats, Suicide’s broken noise loops, and the crushing fuzz of hardcore. Orlowski meanwhile half-screams, half-raps, half-yelps lyrics about trauma, violence, revenge, and the police state. They shred in any circumstance.
Should you happen to live outside of the New York metro area (and haven’t caught them on the touring they’ve done up and down the East coast or in Europe), good news! Today, Deli Girls are back in recorded form. Next week, on February 22, they’ll release a new album on the New York label Sweat Equity called I Don’t Know How to Be Happy. On the whole, it’s as bleak and battered as that name gestures to—built around distorted samples and crushed-up drum sounds and Orlowski’s painful screams, and very often little more than that.
But somehow even with those minimal parts it still feels totally crushing. You can hear it in “Abortion,” the first song they’re sharing from the record today. They make deliberate use of space, often letting these blown-out claps float in the emptiness, before Orlowski comes in screaming about pain and deceit: “Expect to hide it / You’re LYING.” It can occasionally be hard to make out exactly what they’re saying at points, but this chest-caving synth drops in and makes the point clear: you should be afraid, very afraid.
You can listen to that track up above and pre-order the record over at Sweat Equity’s Bandcamp. And if you happen to be in New York, they’re playing at Market Hotel tomorrow with a number of similarly genre-destroying and totally chaotic acts, including Machine Girl, Dreamcrusher, Channel 63, and Kill Alters (whose singer Bonnie Baxter gave a nice survey of this whole mutant scene in her Noisey Mix). Tickets for that gig are available here.