August Music Reviews
"He No Wa"
Mahi Mahi are feeling cavalier. They exude the spirit of
those heady days back in the early eighties when street
and club culture enjoyed a brief spate of solidarity. When
anyone with a few cheap keyboards and a microphone could
be the next one to break it big.
While it's unclear whether Mahi Mahi, a duo consisting
of the mysterious V. von Ricci and Servicio, intend to pick
up where the likes of D.A.F. and Ebn Ozn left off, they
manage to resurrect the ghosts of legwarmers past in a way
that only slightly jives with today's lo-fi underground.
They mold blocky, syncopated rhythms and beeps and buzzes
into a kind of neo- new wave for new club creatures. From
start to finish, "He No Wa" has that upright,
uptightness that only cheap beat boxes and preset synth
patches can intone.
Stark, tin-toned street raps and stoically delivered slogans
hold everything together, but it's that blend of geeked-out
anxiety and Teutonic vacant-ness that gives them away. It
has the unfortunate effect of giving off a stereotypical
Valley Girl / Devo kind of retro vibe that has already been
played out the second time around.
While everything sounds just a bit too familiar, Mahi Mahi's
overall delivery is strong enough to lead me to believe
the duo will successfully surf the prevailing winds of change
and drop the stark and stiff Square Pegs routine. Hopefully
the duo will produce a follow up that not only reveals the
sound they love, but a sound that can more readily be observed
as their own.
British techno maestro Luke Vibert's new full-length, "Kerrier
District," is a very stylized blend of funky rhythms
and sleek, designer electro-disco. Like his recent singles
for Planet Mu and his 2003 Warp Records full-length "YosepH"
(destined to become an acid-techno pop classic), "Kerrier
District" refreshingly retrofits classic dance sounds
around his signature beats and breaks and sassy samples.
On first listen, Vibert's new project may sound just a
bit too infused with the oh-so-fashionable Metro Area vibe,
but his bold, imaginative production style effectively keeps
the occasional smooth-jazz tendency to a minimum. For the
most part, these are floor fillers designed for willing
booty shakers and party people with the intuition to groove
to a fusion of house and disco rhythms.
However, the martini set is sure to find its comfort zone
in some of the tracks. "Negresco," a cool breeze
of dancing synth-flutes and light go-go rhythms, simply
steeps the listener in the moment. "Wide Vice,"
the album's lone head-nodder and easily the most original
"Kerrier" moment, is a jazzy, odd-timed trip-hopper.
The album's finale, the fanciful "Squaredance,"
is centered by a strumming acoustic guitar that reverberates
a baggy, Happy Mondays kind of vibe, mercifully relinquishing
the listener from yet another funky piano. Party on Luke.
-- John Rickman
+ Happy Mothers Day I Can't Read
"The Number On My Forehead Is Gone"
"The Number On My Forehead Is Gone" is the title
of a new split full-length between Ova! and Happy Mothers
Day I Can't Read, two obscure, freak-flag flying acts from
Minneapolis, MN. It features eight breakneck speed-prog
numbers by the very talented Ova!, seven sine wave sufferings
by their Mothers Day colleagues, and five collaborative
tracks that impressively unite the technical clatter of
the former with the surrealist circuitry of the latter.
Like chocolate with peanut butter, this three-act basement
production combines the sweet with the sticky.
Fans of guitar/drum pairings Orthrelm, Hella, and Lightning
Bolt are likely to be pleasantly surprised by Ova!'s quick
picking and damaged time structures. Like their contemporaries,
they compose with quick jabs and precise licks and deliver
it with equal helpings of precision and exuberance.
The hot-wired sounds of Happy Mothers Day I Can't Read,
will either engage or enrage the listener, depending on
one's chemical makeup and immune response. Manic laughter,
improvised malfunctions, white, pink, and other shades of
noise taunt and torture, but hardly titillate. This one
man sideshow rouge-wires recycled toys from childhood's
past, streaming electrical currents in through the out door,
providing an occasional zap here and there.
When the two acts merge and invite a few friends over for
a jam session, the end result is an uncompromising distraction
of great complexity. If you're searching for uncharted territories
of sonic sound, this release is more likely to transport
you to a comfort zone rather than a twilight zone, but if
you've been waiting for phase three of "Lumpy Gravy,"
the wait is over.
-- John Rickman
Together Were Heavy
The first Polyphonic Spree album, The Beginning Stages,
was actually a demo tape thrown together primarily by Tim
DeLaughter and recorded in a week. It was re-released last
year with some tracks recorded in the KCRW studios. They
also recorded an additional song called Soldier Girl
which was the first sign of what they could do in the studios
sonically. With the help of Eric Drew Feldman, they have
brought the magic of the live show into the studio on Together
We're Heavy. The songs are longer and more complex this
time around. It all comes together and it is heavy, man.
This record proves the band is something greater than a
gimmicky assembly of art kids in choir robes.
"Archiv 1.1" is a compilation of minimal techno
and digital ambience from the highly respected roster of
the German label Raster-Noton. Originally assembled for
subscribers of the British monthly music magazine The Wire,
the "Archiv" compilation has been reissued for
American consumption by Asphodel.
A retrospective of sorts, "Archiv 1.1" features
new and unreleased tracks not found on the Wire giveaway.
Raster-Noton -- jointly operated by Carsten Nicolai a.k.a.
Noto, Olaf Bender, and Frank Bretschneider a.k.a. Komet
-- specializes in combining new ideas in sound and art design,
scientific conceptualism, and electronic pop music.
Aside from being the imprint that helped launch Nicolai's
career, the growing popularity of the Raster-Noton label
has also helped to further maximize the credibility of German
minimalism, and the country is still the epicenter of the
The label also plays host to many luminaries within the
global electronic music underground, including Swedish glitch-rocker
Mokira a.k.a. Andreas Tilliander, Japanese digital tone
tweaker Ryoji Ikeda, and Irish loop wrangler Donnacha Costello
The sparse sounds found on the "Archiv" compilation
are more in line with the conceptual and environmental side
of minimalism. In the hands of these artists, computer software
is used to isolate certain frequencies, which are then manipulated
to resonate, vibrate, and create new spatial atmospheres
Mini-pop melodies and dance-oriented glitch-and-groovers
are in short supply on "Archiv 1.1," but the click-pop
track by Pixel (Denmark's Jon Egeskov) more than makes up
for the compilation's dominating art gallery vibe. Pixel's
groovy little bassline, combined with cute-but-funky electrostatic
rhythms and minimal synth sequences, proves you can dance
to the art if you feel like it.
Compiling numerous tracks by different artists whose sounds
are best appreciated as individual environments and experiments
minimizes (pardon the pun) the effectiveness of each track
found on this collection. However, for the uninitiated,
"Archiv 1.1" is a good introduction to some of
the label's (and the world's) finest digital deconstructionists.
-- John Rickman
"Waiting for Armadillo"
The new weird America just got weirder. Once again, Load
Records, the freak-chic label du-jour, has unearthed yet
another homegrown, no-fi disturbance. Metalux, a female-fronted
synth/tape unit from Chicago, typify the latest in post-apocalyptic
tech-noise. The duo merges hallucinatory electro-squiggle
and sequenced sound effects with enigmatic monologues to
create a curious state of unease.
The brave listener will discover a murky world where strange
siren songs hang unsettlingly in an obscure atmosphere of
analog feedback and radioactive vibrations. Vaguely poetic
scripts about armadillos, amethyst dogs, and other ambiguities
may only serve to confuse the listener but they're presented
in a way that enhances the waking-dream-like quality of
the duo's music.
Both M.V. Carbon and J. Gräf were once members of
the much-revered nineties no-wave band Bride of No No before
banding together as the futuristic Metalux. Nautical Almanac's
James "Twig" Harper is an occasional member and
he joins in on three "Armadillo" tracks, adding
a nightmarish undercurrent of electronic noodling to the
The duo has found a new context of their own in which to
exist, having shed their previous rock and guitar-based
trappings, and it takes some effort to make sense of the
madness behind their method. Yet, the cinematic delirium
the duo whip up delightfully astounds as much as it confounds.
It's an eerily compelling listen from track to track, but
listeners should be prepared to experience some post-sleepwalk
A Grand Dont Come For Free
The first sounds on this record are some big horns and
the lyrics It was supposed to be so easy
We have the second record by Mike Skinner. Its a concept
album. One day in the life of a geezer, literally. This
is Mike Skinners Ulysses, his Tommy.
The first thing you notice about this record is all the
female vocals. Its also a little darker and more "mature"
than the first record, which is why some people might not
care for it. I think it's a great record that requires multiple
listens to fully appreciate. Skinner frustrates our expectations,
but in a good way.