The August Music Guide
Turn on the Bright Lights
buzz is out that the rock scene in New York has finally
come alive. Bands like The Strokes, Liars, The Yeah, Yeah,
Yeahs, and Oneida have everyone talking about the new music
renaissance taking place. Granted there is a surplus of
great music to be found in New York these days, but most
fans still long for a little originality. Aping your musical
mentors is never as satisfying as coming up with something
original, even when it is done well. Most bands receiving
acclaim these days will be remembered for being catchy,
but few will be considered groundbreaking ten years from
The latest buzz band, Interpol, is neither groundbreaking
or original but they are so entertaining I am willing to
cut them some slack. This newest Matador band sounds suspiciously
similar to Joy Division, only with a fresh coat of wax.
Their debut full length Turn on the Bright Lights,
is an eleven song collection of gloomy pop that never stops
to catch its breath. There is not a bad track to be found
here. Interpol may do little to advance the creativity of
indie music, but you wont' be able to stop listening nonetheless.
On a down note, "Specialist," the strongest track
from the recently released EP is excluded.
"Love Your Mother"
Ballard a.k.a. Inkblot returns with his sophomore release
"Love Your Mother," bridging the lonesome guitar
pop of his first release with increasingly complex rhythms
and an extra layer of glitch and detail. These instrumentals
offer up equal amounts of acoustic groove and digital finesse.
The opening number "They Get By On Laughter,"
highlights this delicate balance exquisitely with its delicate
string melodies that float gently above a rising morass
of bubbling glitches. The result is a pensive mood that
slowly builds up just enough groove, with its light, steady
high hats and crash cymbals, before surrendering to a brief,
Upbeat, funky songs like "Why I Left The Stove On"
and "Soapy" lean heavier on synthesized sounds,
with super lush techno tones and tight beat constructions.
However, Ballard manages to sneak in the warm sounds of
guitar harmonics and even a touch of vibraphone in the mix,
smoothing things nicely.
The Inkblot sound is more akin to indie pop or post-rock
as opposed to the often cold and overproduced sound of much
techno-pop these days. The acoustic sounds of guitar, cello,
vibes, and piano are unashamedly unaltered sounding, and
sound amazingly natural among the more obviously digitized
sounds throughout the disc. "Love Your Mother"
is similar to his Tomlab debut "The Language Game"
in its restrained and often understated approach to song
composition, which tends to leave you wanting more of a
hook or crescendo here and there, but is no less enjoyable
last gasp comes off as a reflective epitaph for hep new
england thrashdom, with gatefold packaging revealing lyrics
that read like the MRR letters section. Orchid are emotionally
attached to the scene and the kids and their last record
lays their world bare complete with the customary social
criticism, "Class Pictures," and cheeky egoism.
Pretentious perhaps, but their apparent allegiance to a
sense of stylish passion combined with an overwhelming thrash
sound that goes from zero to 120 blastbeats in seconds flat,
makes for quite an engaging, yet intimate screamathon.
Fortunately they've also embraced a change in recording
quality and a new direction in the way they tie everything
together. The recording quality is only slightly better
than the muffled din of their earlier releases, but Orchid's
last will and testament goes out with a bigger bang than
usual, and many of the gaps between songs are filled with
the sound of old basement tapes, which also effectively
makes their new record sound larger than usual.
Passionately embracing the spirit of change, the first
two numbers "Amherst Pandemonium Pts. 1 & 2"
hold up a mirror to the face of complacency and declare
"the old guard is dead!" Lead screamer Jayson
Green's spewing spray of conviction, straining to reach
a degree of intensity equal to that of the voluminous Orchid
guitar sound, scarily sounds like The Shining's Danny "redrum"
Torrance during the chorus of "regroup and strategize,
Orchid are all about all-out intensity, from the songs
first second to it's last distorted chord. Their extreme-guitar-volume
and cymbal-crash thrash relies little on technical finesse,
and is more or less simple hardcore with over the top screamo
vocals in the tradition of Honeywell, Volume Eleven, and
other similarly obscure emo-thrash bands. Orchid songs are
like short shots of adrenaline that race straight to the
heart, jolting the senses into a state of shock.
"From Death to Passwords Where You're a Paper Aeroplane"
a.k.a. Lee Norris prefers to keep things simple for the
sake of a good melody, but his electronic pop songs also
display a sense of craftiness that just makes it all sound
so natural and swinging. His latest release on Hydrogen
Dukebox, like his last one "Dope for the Robot,"
compiles tracks from various singles on other labels, including
from his own Neo Ouija imprint.
Every Metamatic sound is hand-crafted, sounding like everything
and nothing you've heard before. The rhythms are often tiny
and shuffly, but never boring and always seem to match perfectly
with the moodswings of each track's melody and composition.
Norris is generally low-key throughout "From Death
to Passwords," even ambient in places. There are some
tracks that go for the goosebumps, like the disc's opening
number "Here To Go." Marie Munchen's digitally
enhanced vocals are alternately lovely and haunting, or
at least as mysterious as the disc's creepy cover.
The sampled vocals really get with a groove on "Byeway
(Clan)," as pitched-up vocal mantras jam to a real
tight tiny-techno beat and very-Aphex string and keyboard
melodies. This new Metamatics disc, as with any of his many
earlier releases, will appeal to the everyday Boards of
Canada fan as well as to the dedicated techno freak, from
the obsessive Autechre fan to chinscratching minimalists
far and wide. Norris is truly a master craftsman and highly
"Arrange And Process Basic Channel Tracks"
(Pete Kuschnereit a.k.a. Substance and Rene Löwe a.k.a.
Vainqueur) have arranged and reworked various tracks from
Moritz Von Oswald and Mark Ernestus' Basic Channel back-catalog
with the help of Ableton's 'live' audio software. The selection
is focused on the label's more dancefloor-friendly recordings,
including tracks by Cyrus, Phylyps, and Quadrant, most of
which were previously only available in vinyl format. Not
only does it result in being the second Basic Channel compact
disc ever released, but it's also an impressive experiment
that combines new software possibilities with Scion's experience
as DJs and as a live act.
The Berlin-based Basic Channel label provided the basis
for the city's now notorious electronic dub sound, which
has since been expanded upon by the likes of Pole, Dynamo,
and Burnt Friedman. The Basic Channel sound combines the
basic thump of Detroit techno with an emphasis on echo-chamber
dub sounds and evolving subtleties. The latter aspect of
which often requires either a patient and observant or totally
spaced-out approach to its appreciation, as many of the
tracks are ten minutes or more in length and stretched thin
with slow, gradual build-ups.
However, the Ableton software's ability to mix three or
four tracks at once gives the Basic Channel sound more of
an immediate impact on this release. The emphasis on the
clubbier tracks also makes things move and groove at a quicker
pace. If ya don't know what all the fuss is about, I highly
recommend this inventive mix as a great place to start.
Perhaps Tresor will find someone to mix some of the Basic
Channel sister labels like Rhythm and Sound and Chain Reaction
in a similar fashion as well.
Kill Rock Stars
Heat is dedicated to people "Stuck in a shitty
small town." The Gossip received recognition from the
indie world a few years ago as an opening act for Sleater-Kinney.
They moved to Olympia to foster their brand of blues rock,
but seem to have more in common with The White Stripes and
Mississippi Fred MacDowell. The album hits you in the face
with an all-out blues assault. I didn't know people could
make so much noise with so few instruments. It hits you
and your ears are bleeding. The only rule they have as a
band is that the music better rock hard. When it ends 20
minutes later, you'll be begging for more abuse.
- Alexander Laurence
Before hearing The Donnas, I just assumed they were going
to sound great. In fact, I figured they would sound much
like Sahara Hotnights. This band is another import from
the Sweden scene which we write about so much about in Free
Williamsburg. We are on it. Sahara Hotnights released their
first record in 1997, so even though they look like jailbait,
they are veterans of the scene. Their fresh take on music
is a mix of new wave and punk that has become a sensation
Jennie Bomb begins with "Alright Alright" and
"Keep The Speed Up" which are both fast-paced
with original melodies. The guitar playing is jagged and
crisp. They sound like a female Stooges. The strongest song
is "On Top Of Your World" which is fairly definitive
of their sound. Where The Donnas seem stiff at times, this
Swedish band seems more expansive and imaginative. The album
is wall to wall speed.
- Alexander Laurence
Between The Senses
are the latest guitar-based band coming out of Manchester.
This first album was produced by Johnny Marr who seems to
be everywhere nowadays. They have created a local following
over the past four years. They are a band that may seem
as much like Starsailor as they do Oasis and Jeff Buckley.
Even if you have doubts about their brand of emotional rock,
you have to admit that Gary Briggs has a great voice and
Nat Wason's guitar riffs are brilliant. There's been a lot
of sour-faced music from Manchester, and it's refreshing
to hear some life-affirming rock.
"Beautiful Thing" is like The Smiths meets Nirvana,
but with a sweet voice floating through the wreckage. They
have some moving ballads such as "Where Is The Love"
and "Say Something" which soar over the sonic
landscape like the great anthems of old. "I Need Someone"
captures the great straight-ahead rock of a band like Oasis.
They also employ acoustic guitars on occasion, as on "Is
This Bliss" and "Keep Giving In." But Haven
will probably get noticed soon enough for atmospheric songs
like "Let It Live."
- Alexander Laurence
The Flaming Lips
Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots
Flaming Lips is one of the great American bands of the past
twenty years. From the concept-oriented Zaireeka
to the lushly beautiful Soft Bulletin, their records
always brings something new to the table. Their latest,
Yoshimi is surprisingly funky and filled subtle electronica.
The album has a bizarre storyline about fighting robots
which in the future can taste and feel just like humans.
The first song "Fight Test" could be an outtake
from The Soft Bulletin. The synthesizers ooze and
the chorus says "It's all a mystery." Their new
computer funk sound comes on strong in the song "One
More Robot," which ends with a beautiful keyboard section.
"Magicians" and "Ego Tripping" are songs
as strong as any on Soft Bulletin. "Are You
A Hypnotist" flirts with their Pink Floyd obsessions,
but luckily the psychedelic track is kept under four minutes
in length. The feeling of summertime is evoked throughout
the album. The single "Do You Realize?" is already
a classic. It is a ballad that dwells on mortality (a favorite
Coynian obsession). The record ends with "All We Have
Is Now," a solid instrumental. It is a short record
that makes a vital impact quickly. The Flaming Lips are
already lining up for the awards for this one.
- Alexander Laurence
The Black Rooster EP
Kills is a two member band with the mysterious names VV
and Hotel. Their potent music is raw, loud, and unrestrained.
VV is like a young PJ Harvey and she sings with her hair
in her face. Hotel jerks around like a vibrator out of control.
The duo sort of recall Royal Trux. They have already been
played on John Peel's radio show. Even though there is a
minimalism and a raw nerve to their music, it makes an impression.
They are ready to explode.
The first track"Cat Claw" is the best song on
the EP. This is a band dedicated to rocking and to shaking
shit up. "Black Rooster," sung by Hotel, has the
great line "You want to fuck and fight." I have
had relationships like that. "Wait" is another
aggressive song which highlights the interplay between the
two members. They also cover "Dropout Boogie"
by Captain Beefheart. Live VV and Hotel both sing and play
guitars aided by a drum machine. This is a band to check
out when they put out a full length album. They are already
creating a following.
- Alexander Laurence
you know anything about music, you know who David Bowie
is. He had a pretty flawless streak from Space Oddity
to Scary Monsters in the Seventies -- a good run
that stands up against The Beatles or Zeppelin. But at some
point Bowie lost the plot. Was it drug addiction? Was it
all the bad films he was in? Did he go Hollywood and sell
his soul? When I saw him play in a stadium in 1984 during
the Serious Moonlight tour, I felt cheated.
The song "Sunday" on his new record announces
a "beginning to an end." It's a serious dirge
reminiscent of late 1970s Bowie. The second song "Cactus"
is a Pixies cover where Bowie plays drums. It is straight-forward
rock and a pretty cool tune. "Slip Away" is more
like the stuff Bowie has done on more recent albums. It
has interesting lyrics about being in New York City, where
Bowie has spent much of his time recently. "Slow Burn"
teams Bowie with Pete Townshend, who was on Scary Monsters
as well. The Neil Young cover "I've Been Waiting For
You," features Dave Grohl and sounds like it could
be a track off Lodger. There are so many cover songs
on this album, that you'll forget Bowie has penned some
fresh material as well. Heathen is thankfully a much
stronger disk than his last several.
Night On Earth
Eliot and company have been on the UK scene for a long time.
By the time Rialto released their first album, they got
lumped in with the decline of Britpop and many people thought
they were another Pulp. They were dropped by their label
and their record was never properly promoted. Some band
members left and they gathered forces for the next battle.
Their underground following has always thrived, but with
the release of Night On Earth, they may finally get
Drawing on New Wave influences such as Depeche Mode, Rialto
really make an impact this time out. "London Crawling"
is like an encapsulation of their first album but taken
sonically one step better. "Anyone Out There?"
shakes the dancefloor and is Rialto at their funkiest. Eliot
offers some familiar emotional ballads like "Catherine's
Wheel" and "Three Ring Circus" as well. "Idiot
Twin" and "Shatterproof" are quintessential
Rialto at their New Wave best. Night On Earth is
a sonic journey made great by extra attention to a tight
Read and Burn
is no more perfect band than Wire. They started at the dawn
of English Punk and recorded three great records, Pink
Flag, Chairs Missing, and 154. Pink
Flag was picked as the second greatest punk record behind
The Ramones in some recent survey.
In the past year Wire was invited to play some festivals
including All Tomorrow's Parties. Out of this grew the first
new material in over a decade. For people wondering about
Wire picking up where they left off, the new record Read
and Burn sounds like the most energetic music that Wire
has ever produced. Where a lot of their punk associates
have been doing the same thing for years, Wire shocks us
again with fresh new songs. Many songs sound like Chairs
"In The Art of Stopping" kicks off the record
like a bullet. There's a slick production, but it doesn't
stop the track from rocking. I was reminded of some obscure
Wire songs like "Dot Dash" and "A Question
of Degree." "Comet" may be one of the fastest
Wire songs ever recorded. "Germ Ship" and "1st
Fast" have an unexpected sound and are a sign of good
things to come from this ever-changing band. The trademark
guitar fuzz on "The Agfers of Kodack" reminds
me why I liked Wire in the first place. They are a sonic
assault in the land of Ur and Um. This record is what fans
have been waiting for.