The Music Guide - June 2002
V/A - "A Room Full of Tuneful"
is a U.K. indie label with a roster of artists that specialize
in combining and blurring the genres of shoegaze, IDM, loops,
and instrumental hip-hop. Now that it's almost four years
old, Melodic has finally released a sampler of its sounds.
"A Room Full of Tuneful" is an enjoyable listen
that highlights the strength of the label's diversity and
features some special guests as well.
Sciflyer - Melt (EP) - A nice, poppy cross
between Galaxy 500 and Bardo Pond. A great self-released
record that we hope gets more attention. Check
out some MP3's here.
Mary Timony - The Golden Dove (Matador)
- Horrible, Horrible! Avoid at all costs. Though Mark
Linkous (Sparklehorse) helps out on the production,
this solo project by the Helium bandmate sounds like
Liz Phair gone Goth. Matador will redeem themselves
soon with a wonderful new release by Interpol
Ingo Star Cruiser - P.S. I Cuddle a Box
(Moshi Moshi) - A great record on a great (though
tiny) UK label. Everything we have heard from the Moshi
Moshi label so far we recommend, but Ingo Star Cruiser
is the best of the lot. Funny as shit, and funky like
Ween at their best. Listen
Ruts DC vs Mad Professor vs Zion Train
(Select Cuts) -Double CD
80's Punk/Reggae band Ruts DC remixed to dubby splendor
by Mad Professor and Zion Train. Smoke up and enjoy.
The disc begins with and features two tracks by the label's
flagship artist Pedro. "Lay Down Mega Man" is
a sweet intro number with loopy flutes, soaring synths,
and a modest beat. Topo Giglo's "Locked Out" sounds
like a continuation on Pedro's intro, taking the mood up
a slight notch with restrained organ grinding and some slide
guitar. This nice approach to instrumental hip-hop seems
to rely more on the artists' own melodic composition as
opposed to samples and crate-digging, despite its resemblance
to DJ Shadow and the like.
Pedro's other track, "Seven Eight," which displays
an equal appreciation for techno and algorhythmic composition,
contrasts the fluidity of the hip-hop approach, but manages
to retain his breezy, melodic style. Empire State's "Elements
of a Wish" brings the bass line to the forefront of
the phat beat style, adding spooky strings that are just
begging for a Wu-Tang tirade. A break manages to wind its
way through the drama and high-hats clatter towards crescendo
levels before ending in a shimmering cymbal splash.
This diverse compilation also has some very busy, jazzy
numbers like Baikonour's clunky but delightful "Weather
Clicker," a few moody digital tapestries like Minotaur
Shock's "Baltic Wharf," as well as an excerpt
from Chessie's recent Overnight full-length. The only thing
this mostly hip-hop-meets-pop record suffers from is an
occasional display of sleeve-worn inspiration and some unfortunate
editing. It's mastered well, but many of the songs just
seem to end too soon. But since this is basically a label
taster, i have to say it sufficiently succeeds in wetting
the appetite for more Melodic sounds.
Secret Machines - September 000 (Ace Fu)
there was ever a Sunday morning record, filled with mellow,
caffeine-is-bringing-me-slowly-back-to-life groove, then it
is September 000 by Secret Machines. Secret Machines
are a Brooklyn band (originally from Texas) and their debut
EP leaves me wanting more. Like the vibe of Floyd's "Shine
on You Crazy Diamond?" If so you'll dig this record whose
organs, reverbed guitars, and soothing vocals strongly evoke
the Floyd classic. September 000 sounds like the Flaming
Lips without all the sentimentality and overproduction. This
EP is nearly perfect.
Tom Waits - Alice and Blood Money (Anti)
seen lots of Tom Waits reviews lately. He's a genius and has
not one, but two records out currently, so reviews are inevitably
everywhere. Because of this, I almost felt another review
would be redundant. If you like the man, you already have
heard that both of these records (Alice and Blood
Money) are great. What you probably haven't heard is which
one to buy first, since I have yet to encounter a review offering
up this type of practical advice. Neither record breaks new
ground for Tom. He is more theatrical than usual, since both
records were written for the stage as part of a collaboration
with Robert Wilson. Both records shun guitars in favor of
pianos, xylophones and marimbas. And as I said, both records
are gorgeous. So which one should you buy? Pick up Blood
Money first. The tunes are a tad stronger and Alice
has one BIG dud ("Flower's Grave") that tips the
scale to its disadvantage.
- "Dino & Terry Present Deep: Inside Vol. One"
releases yet another deep house compilation, but instead
of parading a collection of EFA artists in which to promote,
the label leaves the programming in the hands of Toronto's
brotherly DJ duo Dino & Terry. Dino & Terry have
good taste in vocal house and have compiled, not mixed,
some of their favorite house tunes of the moment, a few
of which feature their own remix magic.
Dino & Terry's selections are of the soulful, lyrical
variety, alive with fresh, organic instrumentation, as opposed
to run-of-the-mill, sample-based dance tracks. The drum
machines dominate the rhythm of course, but the four-four
sounds are stacked with real-time jazzy synth stabs, juicy
electric bass, a little bit of guitar, and horns here and
there. And both male and female vocals dominate these sophisticated,
deep house songs.
Dino & Terry's crates are filled with solid, spiritual
grooves by the likes of Kenny Dope, Herbert, The Rurals,
and others whose pulse is on the positive vibe of house
music. The diva is unleashed on the disc's opening track
"Believe" by Nathan Haines and Shelly Nelson.
The song's lyrical simplicity and sentimentality gains favor
from a phat, filtered bassline and a church organ competing
with detroit synth sweeps that affirm's the song's message
Herbert and Dani's "Leave Me Now" gets props
for it's experimental approach in the disc's liner notes,
but suffers from claustrophobia, surrounded smack in the
middle of the compilation by big, slick drama on all sides.
And sax, lotsa sax. Deep, jazzy vocal house is usually pretty
fey and overproduced, and to some extent that sentiment
holds true on "Deep:Inside Vol.One," but Dino
& Terry, like i said before, have good tatse and a good
ear for the right rhythm. Divas are sure to love this mix,
and tracky tech-house purists will likely approve of a temporary
crossover if the right mood strikes.
Super_Collider - "Raw Digits"
(Rise Robot Rise)
man, I hardly know where to begin with this release. What
do you get when you cross two seasoned U.K. techno pranksters
(Cristian Vogel and Jamie Lidell), adult contemporary R&B,
digital electro-funk, and a Herbert remix? You get something
close to the new Super_Collider disc "Raw Digits"
but closer to something else entirely undefinable.
Super_Collider's new disc has reshaped electronic soul
music into a tight ball of tension and compression. Contemporary
R&B crooning, with a dirty, bone-jam quality to it,
emanates from inside a high-end echo chamber, taking a backseat
to cold, dry rhythms that are only memorable for their stale
aftertaste. Meanwhile, the strained soulful vocalizing suffers
from the lack of any equally soulful, organic instrumentation.
These two are on to something that combines a passion for
American, urban contemporary and complex, laptop production.
"Raw Digits" succeeds somewhat in presenting this
collision of style and technique, but unfortunately, I can't
help but find that their experiment is at an unlistenable
stage of development.
Burnt Friedman & Jaki Liebezeit
- "Secret Rhythms"
This collaboration between new electronic artist Burnt Friedman
and legendary Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit has created another
link in the evolving genre of digital dub and acoustic jazz
fusion. Highly percussive in nature, but surprisingly low-key,
the aptly titled "Secret Rhythms" explores seductive moods
in a style all their own that borrows from both dub reggae
Friedman & Liebezeit
Rhythm dominates on this release. While they sound very organic
and acoustic, many of the percussion sounds, especially the
snare and kick, sound extremely dry. The thunk of the snare
on the opening track "Rhein Rauf" tends to take away from
the chilled-out mood. While easily overlooked on its own,
it draws attention to the overly dry recording quality found
on the whole of "Secret Rhythms." Fusing live instrumentation
with digital prowess is a fine idea, but it has the potential
to suck away warmth during the recording process.
That lone gripe aside, this cd takes dub fusion in some interesting,
rhythmically-exciting directions. Melodious vibraphones and
steel drums vie for attention overtop stop and start congas,
snare, kick, and hi-hats. These rhythmic underpinnings create
a trance-inducing backdrop for deep basslines, an occasional
synth, and guest musician Josef Suchy's super-funky rhythmic
guitar. The last track, "Obscured By 5 Extended" draws out
all of the aforementioned elements in a very restrained and
methodical manner, remarkably recalling the gamelan sounds
of Indonesia. Recommended.
Sutekh - "Fell" (Orthlorng
"Fell," the new full-length by California-based laptop rocker
Seth Horvitz signals a slight departure from the minimalism
of his past releases on Force Inc., Drop Beat, and his label
Context. Allowing little to no room for space between sounds,
Horvitz has created a new experimental platform with which
to create different moods, structures, and ideas.
While the result doesn't always move me, some of Horvitz'
new directions are interesting and I have to say I'm glad
to see at least one artist break away from the potential pigeonholing
of 4/4 minimalism. Actually, some of the tracks featured on
his new cd, such as the lovely "Fire Weather," harken back
to his days of soulful 4/4 house, but a track like "Recession
Clouds" takes the repetitive beat-driven style to another
level where silence and white noise alternately compete for
dominance to nice effect.
"Privacy," with its organic Rhodes-y electric piano, sounds
almost out of place amongst the chaos and digital dryness.
Sutekh sounds like a Chicago quintet on this late-night jazzy
number. The more musical numbers are mostly surrounded by
experimental sound design and abstractions. Horvitz is definately
onto something, but isn't quite ready to let go of the minimal
rhythms that gained him notoriety. This new release will most
likely continue to keep his fans' ears to the ground as he
prepares to take his next step.