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RECENT REVIEWS
Ryan Adams
The Arsonists
The American Analog Set
Basement Jaxx
Billy Bragg
Boards of Canada
Brian Jonestown
Colonel Jeffrey Pumpernickel
El-p
Elvis Costello
D'Arcangelo
DJ Krush
Dntel
Drexciya
Burnt Friedman & Jaki Liebezeit
Fridge
Fugazi
Robert Hampson/Janek Schaefer
Richard Hawley
House of Distraction
Ides of Space
Roy Lanham and the Whippoorwills
Merzbow
Monolake
Non-Phixion
The Notwist
Jeff Mills
New Order
Papa M
Parker & Lily
Mary Lou Lord
Jim O'Rourke (Rock)
Jim O'Rourke (Electronic)
The Panoply Academy
Prefuse 73
Mark Robinson
Matthew Shipp
Silver Jews
Bim Sherman
Jon Spencer
Superchunk
Tunsi
Transllusion
Vue
Gary Wilson
V/A - Schematic
Secret Machines
Soviet
Super_Collider
Sutekh
The Strokes
Thalia Zedek
Unai
Tom Waits

Paul Westerberg
Wilco
Zero 7

The August Music Guide

Interpol
Turn on the Bright Lights

(Matador)

The 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 now.

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.

--Robert Lanham

Inkblot
"Love Your Mother"

(Audio Dregs)

Jeremy 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, robotic scat.

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 and accessible.

-SK

Orchid
"Gatefold"

(Ebullition)

Orchid's 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, regroup! regroup!"

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.

-SK

Metamatics
"From Death to Passwords Where You're a Paper Aeroplane"

(Hydrogen Dukebox)

Metamatics 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 underrated talent.

-SK

Scion
"Arrange And Process Basic Channel Tracks"

(TRESOR)

Scion (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.

-SK

The Gossip
Arkansas Heat

Kill Rock Stars

Arkansas 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

Sahara Hotnights
Jennie Bomb

Jetset Records

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 lately.

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

Haven
Between The Senses

Virgin Records

Haven 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

Warner Bros.

The 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 Kills
The Black Rooster EP

Dimmak Records

The 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

David Bowie
Heathen

Columbia

If 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.

Rialto
Night On Earth

Koch/Eagle Records

Louis 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 some recognition.

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 production.

-Alexander Laurence

Wire
Read and Burn

Pink Flag

There 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 Missing outtakes.

"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.

-Alexander Laurence

 




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