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The Music Guide - April 2002

Martha & The Muffins - "Select Cuts From Echo Beach - Remix Versions" (Select Cuts )

Ok, see if you can follow me on this: Ex-label manager for On-U Sound and Crammed Discs Nicolai Beverungen starts his own label Echo Beach, named after the '80s, Toronto-based new-wave band Martha & The Muffins' first hit single. The label is established as a means of releasing modern dub music, mostly remixes of past classics, but doesn't get around to compiling remixes of his Canadian heros until his sub-label Select Cuts is established.

So this new tribute disc on Select Cuts compiles 13 remixes of the Martha & The Muffins hit "Echo Beach." A compilation that can only appeal to M+M's die-hard fans or to folks that have to have every remix by their favorite artist. In this case, the artists include such luminaries as Thomas Fehlmann, Gabriel Del Mar, and Jimmy Cauty among others, who contribute dancey, dubbed out, contemporary versions of this old eighties tune.

The original version is also included here with a slightly digital-sounding upgrade, and surprisingly sounds as if it was made just yesterday, perhaps proving that Martha and her Muffins were somewhat ahead of the curve at the time. However, unlike the original, the tame house and dub versions included here will most likely succumb to a gradual degrading of relevance over time. This disc is strictly for the M+M fanbase.

www.echobeach.de
--SK



V/A - "Inhouse Volume Two - Modern House Sounds From Deepest Germany" (E:Motion)

Here we have a tepid compilation of German house sounds best-suited for international jet-setters and cocktail loungers. Strictly for casual listening, this uninnovative collection of soulful house tunes goes in one ear and out the other. Some of it is nice and sounds pretty good when you're shoppin at the Gap or people-watching at Club Swank, but so what?

It's described as deep house, but rarely gets deeper than track 4's "Walkin Thru Circles (Thump Mix)" by Needs. This track comes the closest to sounding like an old Strictly Rhythm deep house single thanks to its soulful simplicity and classic drum machine sounds. Otherwise this disc is chock-full of inflight euro-house with plenty of diva moans and groans.

www.efa-medien.de
--SK


Andrew Pekler - "Station To Station" (~Scape)

Here's something very tasteful for those who like elements of jazz in their electronica. Andrew Pekler, also a member of the Sad Rockets and Bergheim 34, fuses moody, late-night grooves and dub loops with finger snapping bop on his first solo album. Combining sequenced precision with live instrumentation isn't something entirely new, but Pekler's approach is delightfully subtle and unrepetitive.

"You Are Here" sets the predominately low-key mood with its light, percussive brush work and a nice soulful loop that bubbles under nicely. The mood shifts from track to track, with trace elements of Denny-esque exotica and scat-worthy be-bop, but for the most part it's quite a relaxing listen that leans heavily on Berlin's urban dub style.

The track "Manchild" features jazz veterans Elliot Levin on saxophone and Akira Ando on upright bass, both of whom have played with Cecil Taylor in the past. Pekler also invited others to sit in on piano and trumpet as well. "Station To Station" clocks in at 45 minutes but ends much too soon in my opinion. Here's hoping Andrew Pekler follows up with another helping of smooth sounds.

www.scape-music.de
--SK


Random Logic - "Numrebs" (Tehnika)

Slovenian superstars Random Logic's debut full-length "Numrebs" is a deep, dubby techno disc that will file nicely next to your Berlin glitch and frosty Icelandic beats. These folks have released singles on other, more floor-friendly lables like Kial, Tresor, and Djax-Up Beats, under different names, however these tracks stray from the frantic thump of those labels' four-four aesthetic and lean more towards the blunted side of deep techno.

The "Numrebs" sound is that of an emptied meat locker: Metallic echoes, clicky beats, and creaking floors. This disc has an organic soul that grows in strength throughout each track, with its synth washes and minimal melodies that build upon each track's mood. The bare minimum of melody is surrounded by a rickety, skeleton of rhythmic architecture that has a propensity to stay locked in tempo. There's not much chaos to be found on this disc, aside from the elaborate design of the disc's packaging. It's actually quite simple and subtle, and perhaps uneccesary to own if your collection is filled with these au courant sounds, but the sounds are sweet and composed nicely.

At first listen it may sound familiar, perhaps unoriginal, but it has a hypnotic quality about it that keeps my finger far from my cd player's eject button. "Numrebs" proves to be another worthy addition to the glitch'n'dub pantheon of techno music and is a very enjoyable listen.

www.teh-nika.net

--SK


Metropolitan - "Down For You Is Up" (Crank Automotive)

Once the home of labels TeenBeat and Simple Machines, indie-rock's heyday lives on in Arlington, VA.'s current crop of pop bands, and leading the way perhaps, is the three-piece Metropolitan. Saadat Awan, Shyam Telikicherla, and John Masters have a solid rock sound that combines youthful energy and a good ear for vocal-driven melodies.

John Masters' vocals, emotive and just a tad snotty, suck you in on songs like "Slide Rule," "You Want It," and "Incidental." Musically, Metropolitan refrains from composing outside the realm of what is expected from a pop trio of bass, drums, and guitar. Despite their devotion to Sonic Youth and Television, the end result of their collaboration is more akin to your everyday neighborhood garage band. While some bands belong in the basement, Metropolitan's heart is just too big to be restrained and their tunes just too infectious to ignore.

While some contemporary pop bands try to sound too much like one old band or the other, Metropolitan uniquely blends many old favorites into one cohesive mix that effectively revives the optimistic mood of the early '90s.

www.crankautomotive.com
--SK




Boards of Canada - Geogaddi (Warp)

The latest record by Scottish band Boards of Canada (Marcus Eoin and Michael Sandison) is without question the most anticipated electronic record to come out in a long time. The last full-length by the duo, 1998's Music Has the Right to Children, was one of those records that simply everybody liked. I don't remember hearing a single negative thing from anyone about this amazing, if not terribly innovative recording.

The band must realize that they were onto something because their latest Geogaddi is a strikingly similar record, almost to the point of fault. In fact, if it weren't so damn beautiful I would probably criticize the band for not trying something new.

Similar to Music, the playful sounds of children's voices (often distorted by waterlogged tape loops and eerie vocoders) textures many songs on the disk. And as to be expected, the interior artwork of the record again has images of children playing. Their trademark blend of synths and chilled-out hip hop beats abounds, though scratching has mostly been sacrificed in favor of tape looping. Also, the beats are much more subdued on Geogaddi and have less of a hip hop feel to them.

A general sense of foreboding gives way to downright darkness on this outing. Equally beautiful as it is creepy, "Dawn Chorus" has the slowed-down sound of a warped record played over funky beats and contains samples of voices that could either be cries of bliss or muted groans of terror. The band has a knack for suggesting the sinister in the disorienting context of beautiful melodies.

The material found on Geogaddi may not be as strong as that found on Music (though the track "1969" is as lovely as anything they have recorded) but it is still undoubtedly a solid release that will please fans and newcomers to the band alike.

- Robert Lanham


Princess Superstar - Princes Superstar Is (Rapster)

The title Princess Superstar Is begs for a blank to be filled in, so here I go: Princess Superstar is lame, only hype, not talented, only popular because she sings about her pussy, unoriginal, boring, embarrassingly outshined by her all-star cast, going to be filling the bargain bins very soon, and a waste of your money.

Don't buy into the hype. She only shines when she sharing the spotlight with Kool Keith and for one track (2 if you include the remix), your money could be much better spent.

- Robert Lanham



Lambchop - Is A Woman (Merge)

Amazingly, Lambchop is a 20-piece band. They are also one of the quietist bands I can think of. Twenty people could make more noise just being in the same room breathing. And this has never been more true than on their latest release Is a Woman.

Despite the enormous size of the band, Lambchop has always essentially been about the music, artsy lyric writing, guitar, and voice of Nashville frontman Kurt Wagner. On this outing the piano of Tony Crow has replaced Wagner's usual guitar accompaniment as front instrument creating an all new sound that will certainly surprise fans of the band. Though Wagner's distinctive spoken-word singing style remains the same, Lambchop has completely abandoned alt-country in favor of loungey, soulful, and melancholy ballads.

My biggest criticism is that many tracks are too similar in style to really distinguish themselves from one another. Regardless, songs such as "The New Cobweb Summer" with its lovely piano licks and subtle saxophone make this record worth owning even if the last record Nixon was a superior release. I doubt Is a Woman will win any new converts, but fans of Lambchop will be pleased if not a little sleepy after hearing this surprising new release. And as always, listeners will be better off ignoring the lyrics which vary from funny, to artsy fartsy, to plain retarded.

- Robert Lanham



Neil Halstead - Sleeping On Roads (4AD)

These days every soft-spoken folkster with a British accent, and even some without (Elliot Smith, for one), draws comparisons to Nick Drake. It's a goddamn crime. Really. For nearly a week I've been trying to get my head around Neil Halstead's debut solo album, Sleeping On Roads, but I keep coming around to the same conclusion: He sounds just like Nick Drake. It kills me to say it, just kills me, but it's true.

Framed by pneumatic string and horn arrangements, Halstead's wanderlust carries him through a landscape littered with old flames, fantasy vistas, and stormy memories that mark the miles. Like Drake, Halstead - Mojave 3's front man by day -- projects the fragile sensibility of a songwriter who spends much of his time alone, laboring over an acoustic in sparse, unlit rooms.

According to his bio, he wrote and recorded parts of this album while living in the studio for two months. His exile was not exactly self-imposed. He split with his girl and wound up heartbroken and homeless. At least something good came of it.

-- Daniel Schulman



Point - Cornelius (Matador)

I must face facts.... I'm a snob when it comes to electronic music .When it comes to Rock and Pop, I have many fluffy vices like Madonna, Sade, and um...Hall and Oates. But when it comes to electronic music, I am just too demanding. Luomo is about the closest I come to fluff.

That said, I must admit I was surprised to like a couple of tracks of Point, the new record by Cornelius. Cornelius is a Japanese cut and paste artist who somehow won the critics over with his horrible Fantasma that was as spastic and overwrought as it was dull. Oddly, all one needs do to win good words from critics these days is to assemble a record (regardless of how awful it sounds) utilizing 5 million samples and influences. Cornelius and The Avalanches are prime examples of this.

Thankfully, on Point, Cornelius has matured somewhat as a musician and seems to be focusing more on melody than on creating complex collages. The result is syrupy, poppy, and less spastic, but frankly not very good. But at least it is a step in the right direction and seems more controlled than previous efforts. However, his beautiful cover of "Brazil" and the Stereolab-influenced track "Point of View Point" are simply lovely and nearly make the record worth owning.

-- Robert Lanham


Select Cuts From Blood & Fire Chapter 2 (Select Cuts)

Select Cuts I missed Chapter 1, but will definitely be picking it up after immersing myself in the funky and tripped-out dub to be found on Chapter 2. Select Cuts has put together a great compilation of reworkings of classic dub greats such as King Tubby, Lee Perry, and Scientist by younger dub and electronic bands and musicians.

Though the glitchy, minimal dub style coming out of Germany is largely ignored on Select Cuts, the record showcases a mixture of sounds influenced equally by drum and bass, hip hop, and techno. Remix artists include Leftfield, Dubphonic, Kid Loco, Jah Wobble, and most notably Apollo 440 on the endlessly funky remix of Yabby You. Fifteen consistently strong tracks in length, Select Cuts From Blood & Fire Chapter 2 is not to be missed.

-- Robert Lanham




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