January Music Guide
The Cinematic Orchestra
can be an intimidating, insular world. Aside from a modest
collection and interest in some of the classic records and
performers, I am unabashedly ignorant about much that happens
in the jazz world. What keeps me rooted and interested however,
are crossover records that incorporate jazz into their compositional
framework. Everyday is such a record. Conducted by
the inimitable J. Swinscoe, the six member "orchestra"
has released an underground classic with an immediate aura
of timelessness. Faithful to both contemporary club groove
and improvisational jazz playing, Everyday smartly fuses
live instrumentation and programming into a darkly appropriate
noir soundtrack of jazz, breaks, blues and soul. It is a
record at times more accessible and propulsive than your
typical jazz standard, yet more erudite and substantial
than 99% of the dance records that wrongly sit next to it
in the import bin.
-- Steve Marchese
you'll read something about a record that simply isn't true.
Like when a writer describes the new Whitney Houston record
as "groundbreaking." That writer is not only lying
to you, he is also completely fucking delusional. But most
of the press surrounding producer Jan Jelinek's Textstar
(here acting under the alias Farben) was refreshingly right
on. The catch words: minimal, brooding, dubby, sterile,
etc. I usually tend to shy away from things that are too
experimental or minimal as simply a matter of taste, but
Textstar represents Jelinek at his most accessible.
Moving away from the normally fatiguing click-and-cut models
of past releases, Jelinek brings warmth to the clean cold
of dead robot legs, injecting some groove into his compositions.
His beats transmit a soft and isolated kinetic energy, like
watching a fire burning through a snow storm from 300 feet
-- Steve Marchese
Capozzi, a.k.a. Adrien 75, is a native of Los Angeles who
first gained notoriety for his contributions to many of
the releases on the indie label Carpet Bomb, which was celebrated
for its raw, melodic technopop sounds. First as a member
of Unagi Patrol and Microstudio, Capozzi eventually pursued
a more subdued sound as Adrien 75, releasing a single under
that name that also came out on Carpet Bomb. However, his
full-length debut "Coastal Acces" is released on the German
label Source Records, and is befitting of that label's preference
towards slick production and deep moods.
Capozzi's sound may have gotten smoother, but his penchant
for fusing guitar with mellow synths and simple rhythms
remains intact. "Coastal Acces" is very easy listening and
devoid of overbearing repetition, but not entirely ambient
or beatless. It sets a seaside mood with nautical track
titles and deep blue artwork.
Undercurrents of guitar and synth sounds float throughout
each track, ebbing and flowing gently and rarely cresting
ashore, with most of the tracks remaining submerged in oceanic
ambience. Capozzi's light wah-wah touches on "Untitled Guitar
Piece #4" sound like distant sea mammal calls echoing across
an underwater expanse. The last six tracks create a suite
of sorts and also have slow, deep sounds with echoing rhythmic
bubbles and dreamy guitar picking.
Perhaps the only track on "Coastal Acces" that doesn't convey
a sense of stillness is "Ocean Drilling," which begins with
hyper glitches that eventually reveal themselves to be diced
up cymbal sounds. The track quickly adds a soulful synth
loop, then morphs into a chill head-nodder with the glitches
returning to the spotlight to create an implied, barely-there
drum and bass track. "Moonlit Waters" also gets the blood
pumping a bit with its light, funky rhythm and skanky synth
stabs. This Adrien 75 full-length will delight listeners
who appreciate organic subtleties and little bit of swing
with their mood enhancement, as his debut successfully -
and delicately - balances ambience and melodic composition
to great effect.
is the new indie! Metal is the new indie! You read it here
first (unless you read it where I read it earlier).
An unashamed metalhead for, like, ever, this means nothing
to me. Wow: so some Michael Stipe look-alikes now realize
there's more to metal than Motley. Metal Rules, and Metal
Has Always Ruled (Oceanic has always been at war with Europe
and Asia). Now, I am not talking about the current crop
of crap from ridiculous pussies (e.g., Linkin Park, Adema,
Staind, System of a Down, Andrew W.K. and so on). And I
am not talking about quasi-metal by droopy prog-pretenders
(i.e., Queens of the Stone Age). I am talking about thanks-be-to-Slayer,
metal-as-fuck metal, and in particular, the new CD by Boston's
Here are some adjectives: thunderousity, discordantantic,
cordant, screamy, cathedralious, lowd, munchy, ambient (yes,
ambient), aggressive. And that there is the key to balls-out,
metal: aggression. But as anyone familiar with it knows,
aggression need not be endlessly, relentlessly evident to
be on. Even if there's no clot-riddled screaming scorching
your ear bones, no kranging cymbals breaking your brainwaves
like that headpiece Harrison Bergeron's dad had to wear,
no guitars filling your every hole, there is still aggression:
roiling, writhing, waiting. And in ISIS' music, it lurks
even between the tracks, it's in the dinging, dingy, ambient
feedback (yes, ambient feedback), in the expansiveness before
the punch-you-in-your-fuckin-heart re-entry of the drums,
guitars, and screaming. And in the cover art: a green ocean
surface, undoubtedly teeming beneath with sharks and guitars.
This is not Megadeth shredshit, not ponderous Metallicrap,
not "we're only slumming" Fucking Champs mathmetal.
This is actual metal, but metal informed by Slint, by Labradford,
by wide-open spaces, impressionist paintings, and broken
noses. I'd list the songs, but what would that tell you?
This is metal for fans of the aforementioned Fucking Champs
who raise the devil horns in ironic abandon but who are
ready to get their metal served without a smirk (looking
for an easy comparison? John Spencer Blues Explosion = Fucking
Champs, White Stripes = ISIS).
I, for one, welcome ISIS, our new metal champions, delivering
all the irony-free metal one CD can hold on "Oceanic"
(but if it's irony you crave, here are some UMLÄÄTS!)!
- Matt Casper
Boards of Canada
(Warp Records, 2002)
reissue of early Boards’ work dates back to ’95 and I guess,
if so inclined, you could geek back further to some obscure
cassette-only releases representing their actual initial
output. But I prefer to think of Twoism as the beginning,
and perhaps the most quintessential Boards of Canada release,
a truly great representation of all of their audio trademarks
– haunting downtempo rhythms; lonely, resonating synth melodies;
short bursts of electronic optimism; flawless, near-obsessive
production. Originally released on their own Music70, Twoism
is testament to BoC’s innovation and legitimizes their growing
legacy. With legions of transitory copycats flooding electronic
music with a deluge of sub-par offerings, it is truly amazing
how much this 8 year-old record retains its quality and
stands out amongst its peers.
-- Steve Marchese
Drive Like Jehu
can't fuck with legend. For a little over 4 years, from
1991 to 1995, San Diego's Drive Like Jehu aggressively redefined
the rules applied to anxious and intelligent guitar-driven
rock. Innocent onlookers took to cover every time John "Speedo"
Reis and Rick "Fork" Froberg joined together to deliver
the ultimate contrapuntal axe attack. Froberg's often accusatory
shrieking is sometimes accredited as the forefather to the
"screamo" movement, yet Jehu was much more than teenage
boys shouting over Christmas guitars. Yank Crime (their
second and tragically final record) is to Jehu as Ritual
de lo Habitual is to Jane's Addiction -- a more dynamically
epic and calculated record, brooding in it's potential to
ignite and explode at a moment's notice. A certified underground
classic that sounds even better seven years later. This
reissue also includes the Merge 7" "Bullet Train to Vegas."
-- Steve Marchese
The Mercury Program
A Data Learns its Language
love to attach the ubiquitous "post-rock" tag
onto any record that challenges the conventions of your
typical 2 guitar/1 bass/drummer paradigm. In these burgeoning
times of trust-fund fueled "raw" rock , anything
that deviates from the vocal-oriented, verse/chorus/verse
formula is forced into a common niche. A Data Learns it
Language will certainly be there, and deservedly so, because
there currently isn't a better example of tight, looping,
instrumental rock. Like the Dylan Group or Mice Parade,
the vibraphone is a huge player in the overall sound. (Add
your prerequisite Tortoise comparison here). A solid, introspective
long player from the Tiger Style crew.
Q and Not U
no denying the impact Dischord Records has had on underground
music culture. Even after 20 years, they still find a way
to release records from quality bands from the DC area (see
Faraquet as well). On Different Damage, Q and Not U continue
in the spirit of their taut debut No Kill, No Beep Beep,
expanding on the Dischord post-punk sound with metronomic
start/stops, passionately spit enigmatic lyrics and a funky
dubbed out rhythmic timing. Stop complaining about how Beefeater's
"Play's for Lovers" reminds you of the good times
and keep the magic alive with next-gen Dischord. Solidly
produced by Fugazi's Ian MacKaye and Inner Ear's Don Zientara.
(Morr Music, 2002)
newest addition to the growing Morr Music roster (including
Isan, Lali Puna, Ms. John Soda, Manual) is one of the label’s
finer offerings among a slew of recent releases. Forced
to literally form his own scene and band in a small village
located in South Apulia, Italy, 22 year old Italian Andrea
Mangia, a programmer/player influenced as much by Funkstorung
as he is Tortoise, drops a solid offering of ambient textures,
rhythmic crackles & hisses, solid bass-driven beats and
enough melody to avoid the tiresome clichés of his glitch-pop
contemporaries. Like most Morr records, Quipo has its share
of organic guitars, strings and percussion, providing material
depth to the otherwise sterile cut & paste samples and sharply
programmed beats. It is a record reflective of its maker
– isolated, pastoral, yet just a technological moment away
from dialing up the rest of the world.
-- Steve Marchese
hope this record gets to you somehow, because the odds are
that you'll never hear it and that would be a shame. The
Cassettes are a bunch of guys from obscure DC area indies
like Frodus, Dead Meadow and Weird War and if you have heard
any of these bands you may imagine this an angst-filled
exercise in noise. Suprisingly, The Cassettes throw down
10 nuggets of what Lovitt describes as "post-punk psychedelia
or neo-garage rock for basement show kids." Although
these phrases may induce vomitting, they are nontheless
accurate given the band's history and context. This self-titled
release is in fact filled with memorable, melodic anachronisms
bringing to mind tweeter-bursting classic rock, introspective
singer/songwriter-isms and solid trans-Atlantic anthems.
Seed to Sun
ultimate prefix record. Post-, neo-, whatever it is that
preceeds the style, Seed to Sun represents a beautiful amalgam
of it all. Boom Bip, aka Bryan Hollon, drops a lovely, introspective
collection of deeply personal and relevant music. With equal
attention on the strengths of cinematic rock, laptop jockeyism
and fringe hip-hop experimentalism this is a record made
by and for someone into the now sound. Go to your collection,
start with 'A', grab some random disks - Atmosphere, American
Analog Set, Authechre, Aerial M. You'll like this record.
Drop down to 'B' - Broadcast, Boards of Canada, even Basehead.
You'll enjoy it. I hope you get the picture. Out now on
Warp's fledgling label, Lex.
snuck onto the burgeoning Brit-pop movement about a decade
ago before any of us knew what lay in store for the 1990's.
Their first single, "Nothing Can Stop Us" appeared
out of obscurity and had a large underground British following
that heralded a new (or at least different) era of breezy,
sweet, dance-clubby Euro-pop. Apparently that track has
foretold the success that Saint Etienne (Saint Et) has enjoyed
since breaking onto the scene as they continue to rise in
The trio, composed of Bob Stanley, Pete Wiggs and vocalist
Sarah Cracknell recently released their latest effort, Finisterre,
which comes on the heels of 2001's "Interlude"
compilation album. Their sound remains, essentially, the
same as they did waaaay back in the 1990's. There are no
new daring twists or turns, no radical experimentation to
speak of (maybe a bit more acoustic guitar on a track here
but that's it). It's the same old Saint Etienne
we've known and loved for years. And if their recent late-November
show at Irving Plaza is to be any indication, the legion
of wildly eager fans is only still growing, it would seem,
Many of the tracks on Finisterre are, of course, ripe with
new wave electronica, fast beats, high energy and carefree
vocals - Saint Etienne's signature sound. The peppy beats
swirl around Cracknell's vocals with eerie simplicity on
most tracks like "Action," "Shower Scene"
"Summer Isle" and "New Thing" to name
a few. Four tracks in we stumble upon "Soft Like Me"
featuring the unintimidating Brit jammer, Wildflower, rapping
along to Cracknell's usual happy beats. It may be too poppy,
too lite, or just too much like suburban rap of the early
1990's so this will be the track most listeners skip and
probably the biggest complaint of the album. Perhaps it's
true that "Soft Like Me" will probably end up
as the music bed to a Mentos commercial in the not-too-distant
future. Whatever the case, it still fits the underlying
trancy mood "Finisterre" creates so it works to
keep my toes tapping throughout the entire album.
For the all-out fans, Finisterre is one of those albums
with few flaws, Saint Et, hitting the mark again. For everyone
else, Finisterre has a few great foot-stomping tracks; however,
the rest of the album may remind us of flashbacks to Britney
Spears-sponsored Z100 music. Whatever your persuasion, at
the very least, it's a good album to have to battle the
frustrations of city life, like the hourly delays on the
F train, because you'll be in a good mood after you've listened
to Sarah's lilting voice whether you like it or not.
- Derek Elmer
The new Umek full-length "Neuro" finds the Slovenian
superstar taking a more complicated and dramatic approach
to his signature hard techno sound. Inaccurately described
by his label as "experimental," his newest release
is simply a departure from the usual four-to-the-floor pounding
of his club singles. Most of the tracks are actually quite
accessible and just as bangin' and funk-a-fied as any club
music, but in a more imaginative and narrative way.
On "Neuro," Uros Umek largely shelves his propulsive,
deep, metallic dance sound in favor of melodic strings and
singing synths to create futuristic anthems and post-rave
flashbacks. Their construction reminds this listener of
Italian producer Marco Passarani and also brings to mind
the best of dark, eighties synth-pop. Umek's rhythms are
either mid-tempo or completely spastic, and are more than
just a backdrop within the space-time soundtracks, sounding
somewhat machine-like, but spicy and very colorful.
There's the occasional floor-filler, with the atypical
kick and hi-hats, such as the jazzy "neurotrotter,"
with its jumpy, high-pitched tones and synth-stabs - the
rare, light touches of which somehow managing to fit in
with the rest of the disc's overall state of excitement.
For the most part, however, "Neuro" is a dramatic,
synth-heavy, techno-pop soundtrack likely to unite techno-heads
with fans of dark, industrial electronics. If Umek's new
release is experimental in any way, it's resulted in a successful
crossover from the dancefloor to the mind.
45 Seconds Of:
odd, conceptual compilation combines ninety-nine 45-second
tracks by eighty-four artists into a tightly-woven collage
of electronics. No fade-outs here, just 45-second snippets
whizzing by in a dizzying, non-stop fashion. If you're not
paying attention from track to track, some of the snippets
seem to blend and merge nicely. However, some transitions
can be somewhat jarring, but it's those edits that make
the disc so exciting to listen to.
Chosen from a pool of over 500 submissions, the artists
represented on this collection showcase abstract electronic
sounds as well as rhythmic and melodic compositions, and
include the notorious (DJ Spooky, Lali Puna, Jan Jelinek,
Martin Rev, Blevin Blectum, John Tejada, Kim Cascone) as
well as the relatively unknown (Lump, Rockin' Pony, Derevo,
However, despite the originality and entertainment value
of each artist's contribution, "45 Seconds Of:"
ultimately forces the listener to experience the collection
as a whole, challenging the listener to find commonalities
and revel in the disparities. The end result is a boundless
tapestry of electronics, bridging artists from around the
world whose singular, immediate expressions merge (or clash)
into a unified listening experience.
Distortion Is Truth
from the fringes of New York City's punk and experimental
music scenes of the late 70s', guitarist Robert Poss has
always managed to straddle the grey area between pop and
improvisation, and continues to do so on his new solo release,
"Distortion Is Truth." Perhaps best known as the
lead axe-wielder of the 80s' drone-pop act Band Of Susans,
Poss' keen appreciation for the electric guitar's unintended
noises and ringing overtones continues to point him in new
The disc consists of both live and studio recordings and
starts off on an isolationist bent. "Brakhage"
is a short, cinematic piece with flickering glitches morphing
into waves of guitar tonality. On "Radio Free Albemuth
Revisited," Poss nicely dices shards of feedback into
distinctive voices that call and respond. There are more
of these meditative moments throughout the disc, but Poss
also takes a few 360-degree turns into pop, and even synth-pop
Without taking the guitar into too much, if any, digital
territory, Poss layers buzzing synth-like drones, feedback,
and distortion on top of big beats and deep bass. "You
Were Relentless" whips up a sonic storm of squealing
guitars, soaring vocals, and Bonham-beats into a devotional
frenzy, while the instrumental version of "Azulene"
takes it down a notch without losing the same feel of propulsive,
rhythmic euphoria. "Management Confidential" is
definitely the odd duck of the disc, with its synthetic,
electro-style instrumentation and cheeky, lyrical gratitude.
While this solo effort tends to highlight Poss' meditative
side and ability to channel six-string sonics inward, it
also reveals Poss as a songwriter with a gift for studio
craftsmanship and a talent for harnessing and commanding
electrical afterburn. Whether riding resonating crests or
layering light sounds of strums and hums, Robert Poss' emotive
directions are equally moving and exciting.
[Drag City; 2002]
poem printed in the liner notes of Mick Turner's third solo
album, Moth, ends "and my mouth heals like a cut." The imagery
says quite a bit about Turner's wordlessly expressive approach
to music. As a member of the Australian instrumental trio
the Dirty Three, Turner's forlorn guitar lines mingle with
a tempest of strings and rhythm to form compositions that
are oddly visual. At times wanting for Warren Ellis' maudlin
violin outpourings and Jim White's emotive drum fills, Turner's
Moth is stark and rainy-day moody. Through 19 instrumentals,
reverb-heavy guitar melodies ebb and flow over incidental
piano and organ flourishes to form a partial picture, deliberately
vague, the score to an unscripted film taken beautifully
out of context.
- Daniel Schulman
[MCA/Fat Cat, 2002]
because the spelling of Sigur Rós' previous album, Ágætis
Byrjun - and indeed their songs, which included such hits
as Svefn-G-Englar, Flugufrelsarinn, Viðrar Vel Ttil Loftárása
- proved too vexing for English-speaking journalists, the
band's latest invocation is titled with a symbol and includes
no track listings. The album described by the symbol ( ),
which most closely resembles a pair of parentheses, exists
in a preternatural stasis between experiment and calculation,
melody and dissonance, reality and auditory hallucination.
Occasionally through the wash of droney guitars, atmospheric
synth lines, and dirge-inspired drum beats, singer Jónsi
Birgisson interjects with a melodic statement. You might
think he's repeating the phrase "you are so alone." He isn't.
Like Birgisson's lyrics sung in the nonexistent language
"Hopelandic" - Icelandic words coupled with melody-tailored
gibberish - the content summed up by the album's parenthetical
symbol is whatever you, the listener, chose it to be. On
the band's website (www.sigurros.com), fans are invited
to contribute their interpretations of Birgisson's lyrics.
A computer program built into the site then recognizes the
most often used phrases constructing the album's lyrics
from fans' contributions.
Though ( ) is not packaged with a cautionary label warning
listeners about the album's physical impact on the human
nervous system, maybe it should be. We suggest May Cause
Drowsiness or Do Not Use Before Operating Heavy Machinery.
( ) - all 71 mind-altering minutes of it - feels like drowning,
slipping further from the surface, but instead of fighting
it, letting go, and thinking only of how amazing everything
looks from that perspective. Coincidentally, or maybe not,
( ) was recorded in a converted swimming pool in rural Iceland.
The wordless title, the largely featureless cover art, and
seemingly the maddening irreverence of a band that would
go so far as to release a beautiful album about nothing
in particular, have prompted some reviewers to brand Sigur
Rós pretentious. Maybe. But if so, they are one of very
few bands to give pretension a good name.
- Daniel Schulman
what is this shit? Seriously, what in the good name of fuck
do you think you're doing? This is the result of two legendary
groups? This is the logical conclusion to Soundgarden and
Rage Against The Machine? You've got a band now that sounds
like Soundgarden with Tom Morello riffs; that's what I've
been waiting for all this time? When The Strokes came out,
and cats were insulting them for trying to sound 80's (or
70's depending on what annoying indie prick you asked),
I said, and say to this day "Dude, whatever. It's a
good album." Oh, and "cochise" is a good
had neither Soundgarden or Rage Against The Machine
ever existed. But they did, and now some five years later
after their respective breakups I get to have a bastardization
of classic music. Well, isn't that a bloody hoot? Zach was
famous for saying that the reason he left Rage was that
"the decision making process had completely broken
down." I guess that must've been with the decision
to make a Hype Williams-ass video with sparkly things and
20- nay 40-foot platforms. And, oh Mr. Cornell, weren't
you so powerful constantly wailing about "LAY IT ON
. GO ON AND SAVE YOURSELF!" Let me get
this straight, you left Soundgarden to write a song that
Soundgarden. Hanging out with Jerry Cantrell
much? Then that shit needs to stop, son. Oh, and the band
name. Let's bring up the band name: Audioslave. What kind
of wanky-ass nonsense is that? Sounds like some crap modern
rock outfit, clamoring for their video on MTV's "Buzzworthy"
(ahem). Please boys, tell me this isn't another misguided
attempt to "just play some good ol' rock and roll",
because I've never heard a bigger death knell than that
in all the world of music. It screwed Slash on his solo
effort, because he never just played "good ol' rock
and roll". It was the time and place and TALENT that
all made what he, and you bastards, did brilliant.
I'll tell ya. There's so much wrong with modern music that
I don't need you people raping high school for me. High
school was bad enough, let me hold on to what I can of grunge,
and of the only viable rap metal band ever (probably because
they were the first, were good musicians, and Zach can actually
rhyme). For shame
for shame boys. I thought I knew
- Maurice Downes