July Music Reviews
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.