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RECENT REVIEWS
Ryan Adams
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The Music Guide - June 2002

V/A - "A Room Full of Tuneful" (Melodic)

Melodic 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.

In Passing:
• 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 here.

• 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.

www.melodic.co.uk

--SK



Secret Machines - September 000 (Ace Fu)


If 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.

--Robert Lanham


Tom Waits - Alice and Blood Money (Anti)


I've 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.

--Robert Lanham


V/A - "Dino & Terry Present Deep: Inside Vol. One" (E:Motion)

E:Motion 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 of conviction.

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.

www.dinoandterry.com

--SK

Super_Collider - "Raw Digits" (Rise Robot Rise)

Oh 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.

www.no-future.com

--SK



Burnt Friedman & Jaki Liebezeit - "Secret Rhythms"
(Nonplace)



Friedman & Liebezeit
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 and Eno-ambience.

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.

http://nonplace.smash.tv
--SK



Sutekh - "Fell" (Orthlorng Musork)

"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.

www.musork.com

--SK


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