Music Guide - April 2002
Martha & The Muffins - "Select Cuts
From Echo Beach - Remix Versions" (Select Cuts
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
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
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.
V/A - "Inhouse Volume Two - Modern
House Sounds From Deepest Germany" (E:Motion)
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.
Andrew Pekler - "Station To Station"
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.
Random Logic - "Numrebs" (Tehnika)
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.
Metropolitan - "Down For You Is Up"
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
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.
Boards of Canada - Geogaddi (Warp)
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
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
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
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
- Robert Lanham
Neil Halstead - Sleeping On Roads
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)
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
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.
Select Cuts From Blood & Fire
Chapter 2 (Select Cuts)
-- Robert Lanham
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