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April Music Reviews and Picks


Cave In -
Antenna

(RCA)

Started as a metal outfit in 1995, Cave In have incrementally tempered their sound over the years, realizing somewhere along the way that melody is, indeed, a good thing. In fact, on their major label debut, Antenna, Cave In have evolved to the point where you might even call their songs catchy -- albeit in a head-banging, not hip-shaking sort of way. Moody, dark, and at times a tinge overwrought, Antenna treads prog-rock territory without taxing the fragile human attention span with self-indulgent, twenty-minute sonic digressions. (Most songs clock-in under five minutes.) With the distortion dampened and an emphasis on solid instrumentation, Cave In emerge a band with talent to spare and a unique sound that, while still in utero, is bound to blossom. One thing's for sure: These ain't your father's power ballads.

-- Daniel Schulman


Fruit Bats
Mouthfuls

(SubPop)


This has been a good year so far for breezy and melodic indie pop. From Calexico's latest record (simply gorgeous) to The Minus 5/Wilco release (darn pretty too), and don't forget Alaska!, people who like their pop with a touch of folk have had plenty to choose from. Fruit Bat's most recent release may be my favorite of the batch. Every song is a single. Mouthfuls is thoroughly enjoyable and a perfect listen for Spring.

--Robert Lanham

White Stripes
Elephant

(V2)

I'm not really that interested in reviewing this record because I'm sure everybody on the effin planet will be covering it in the next week. But I do have some things to say about the phenomenon of the band. I saw them play a couple of years ago, before the whole MTV thing and they rocked. Every "indie" fan on the planet was in awe with the band (and Meg's tits too). White Blood Cells and De Stijl rule and nearly everyone I know owns both. Recently, the backlash has begun and it is no longer cool to dig them. To see what I mean, next time you are hanging with "ultra-hip" types bring up the band and watch what happens. The Stripes have become the new Strokes. Some strange indie scapegoat. They rule and always have, even if they are on MTV. Why diss success? Dumbasses. That said, here's my review. Elephant is OK. A little less low-fi and much more mellow that WBC, but overall it's worth a listen. And Meg and Jack are still cool in my book.

--SOF

The Slaughter Rule Soundtrack
Score by Jay Farrar

(Bloodshot)


More often that not film soundtracks are tenuously anticlimactic when stripped away from the films they accompany. After all, soundtrack selections are chosen for their mood-enhancing properties, their ability to drive plot by augmenting the feel of individual scenes or occurrences. Packaged separately, soundtracks frequently lose their potency, appearing either as imminently ignorable mood music or a loose mishmash of disparate songs and styles. The Slaughter Rule soundtrack breaks the mold. Scored by Jay Farrar (Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt) and including tracks by Vic Chesnutt, Freakwater, Neko Case, Malcolm Holcombe, and the Pernice Brothers, among other alt-country heavy hitters, the album sets the scene for a coming of age tale set in rural Montana. The collection of stark instrumentals, modern spirituals, and plaintive folk ballads mirrors the tumult and triumph of growing up without requiring the film footage to place it in context. Often a good film compels audiences to pick up the soundtrack. Rarely is it the other way around.

-- Daniel Schulman

Nick Cave
Nocturama

(Anti/Epitaph)


The title Nocturama is misleading: this is the least goth record Nick Cave has ever made. He dropped that tone with Murder Ballads. For the past five years, Cave has just concentrated on pure songwriting, and has sounded more like his heroes, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan. Nocturama has little of his signature darkness or moodiness. There is hope and tenderness instead. Why people listen to him who have been wearing black for the past twenty years is baffling. Most of these songs are about love and devotion. Warren Ellis from The Dirty Three adds his violin to several memorable songs. Songs like "Bring it On" are rock and roll songs worthy of the Henry's Dream era. But ballads like "He Wants You" just seem to ring more true.

--Alexander Laurence

The Raveonettes
Whip It On

(Crunchy Frog)

Their presentation drips cool. "Recorded in Glorious B Flat Minor," it says on the black and white cover, with "The Raveonettes" in red letters. Denmark's stylish duo stare out at you with blank expressions, the girl looking like a startled, blonde mannequin, the guy with a hint of a smirk. "Attack of the Ghost Riders" opens with a deafening feedback screech followed by buzzing guitars reminiscent of The Jesus and Mary Chain. "Lipstick on my face/thunder in the sky/the shades are drawn/don't ask me why." This and the slower, menacing "Bowels of the Beast," with its haunted bassline and sleigh bell accents are my favorite tracks. The Raveonettes' vocals are detached and lazily delivered, contrasting nicely with their ominous, sinuous melodies that are sometimes punctuated by bursts of grating noise. Lyrics about tornados, chain wielding lovers and being chased by cops on the highway (sirens in the mix) waft coolly over bluesy, distorted and heavily reverbed guitars that have a satisfying garagey crunch. I can picture a go-go dancer on a pedestal but she's definitely dressed all in black. On "Beat City," they start to transcend their own formula with a guitar freakout, insistent, pumping drum machine and mad shakers. "She said she'd like to die alone some day," "a crater in my brain/where the strippers go insane," "we won't pull over/fuck you," they intone. Intrigued yet? They may become the next White Stripes.

-- Laura Markley

Main
"Transiency"

(Tigerbeat6)

The other night i had the wits scared out of me during a viewing of the The Ring, a chilling movie with a soundtrack that often mimicked the buzzing and flickering sounds that televisions and other electronic devices make, and i left the movie with some of those sounds still ringing in my head. I returned home and popped in the new Main cd on Tigerbeat6, only to have the same spooky sounds reignite my frazzled imagination.

Originally the guitarist for the late-eighties psychedelic rock band Loop, Robert Hampson continues to forge new sonic pathways with his solo project Main, only with computers and with an ear for minute detail. In four parts, "Transiency" is an impulsive composition of electro-acoustic pulsations and resonances, with pure silence as a sonic backdrop.

The underlying stillness effectively compliments Hampson's digital abstractions, the movements of which imply a journey of an inward, personal sort. The details of those abstractions are revealed in the whitewash, exposing a methodical approach on the part of Hampson to create a controlled environment -- one that negates any sense of ambience and almost evokes a sense of unease and disorientation. In that sense, "Transiency" is quite a fascinating listening experience and one that's sure to tweak you out one way or another.

--SK

Freeform
"Condensed"
(Nonplace)

It's about time i caught up with Simon Pyke. Over the past seven years or so, Pyke has released a number of singles and full-lengths under the name Freeform for such notable labels as Warp, Worm Interface, Skam, Sprawl, and Quartermass. Some of those older tracks have recently been compiled and edited -- or shall we say, condensed -- by Bernt Friedman and released as a non-stop Freeform mix on Friedman's Nonplace label.

"Condensed" is the perfect collection of this British artist's music, which he himself describes as "junk-funk," as it highlights his many styles and refusal to adhere to any one particular approach. Pyke's music is often dense and very abstract, but the condensed nature of Friedman's mix keeps things moving and interesting.

Tracks like "Munchogram," with its warm, soulful synth chords, and "Craving For Grey," with its jazzy organ tones, while appealing for their recognizable melodies and obvious rumpshakiness, both feature detailed, technical rhythms and layers of strange, glitchy noises. Those later, quirky qualities seem to be the Freeform norm, as most of the tracks aren't strictly for groovers. Pyke has a penchant for severe left-turns mid-song and meandering ideas, but his sounds are so engaging it's easy to get lost in the mix.

--SK

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