April Music Reviews and Picks
Cave In -
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
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.
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.
The Slaughter Rule Soundtrack
Score by Jay Farrar
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
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.
Whip It On
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
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.
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.
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