June Music Reviews
"Kumquats and Lychees"
"Kumquats and Lychees" by Baltimore, Maryland's
Leprechaun Catering, a.k.a. Tom Boram and Jason Willett,
is a much-welcomed blast of trout-masked madness. This shameless
and unrestrained duo whip up an improvisational whirlwind
of ramshackle rhythms, chunky be-bopped chops, and wild
Their music convokes a kind of chaos that always sounds
as if it's about to reel out of control. The two abuse their
electronic gadgets and stab at their instruments the way
hyenas tear into a fresh-killed fawn. If Leon Theremin knew
how Boram defiled his electromagnetic invention he'd breakdance
and backspin in his grave.
In a live setting, the duo is a tornado of flailing limbs
and twisting torsos, projectile drumsticks and flying fingers.
"Lychees" -- a vinyl-only release -- is the sound
of band struggling to stay one step ahead of its craft.
In this time of tight-lipped talk and repressed dissent,
Leprechaun Catering's debut release of untangled tension
and slippery slobber is sure to unleash a primal scream
from even the most rigid of hipsters.
-- John Rickman
Church of the Ghetto P.C.
Jesse Legg, a.k.a. o9, managed to make a name for himself
(or in this case, a number) largely by appearing on the
right electronic music compilations at the right time. His
contributions for Schematic's widely celebrated "Lily
of the Valley" and "House of Distraction"
compilations were gems of bright, organic fluidity amidst
crops of cold, industrial electronics.
Those tracks, as well as those found on both of the Nophi
label's collections, stood out among the pack for their
remarkable beauty as well as for their brevity, two qualities
of which are largely ignored by o9's algorithmic, beat-crunching
contemporaries. His rolling melodies, unconventional-but-simple
rhythms, and warm blankets of synthesizers can turn heads
in any context.
While o9's first Schematic full-length "Church of
the Ghetto P.C." still maintains a glimmer of DNA-infused
input, it comes across as very machine-centric and favors
a slightly darker edge. "P.C." also has an epic
feel about it -- one that takes the listener on a trip through
11 tracks of color-coded terminals.
The trip begins with "Terminal Red" -- a barrage
of bass and beats infused with slightly metallic synth tones.
The propulsive rhythms convey a sense of urgency and are
layered thick with echo and digitized reverb, suggesting
a submersive environment. "Terminal Pink," awash
with bitstreams of blips and bleeps, plunges the listener
even deeper within Legg's virtual world of electronic sound,
its shuffle-beat giving the computer soup an edgy groove.
As the moods and movements shift from Terminal to Terminal,
things never quite seem to bubble back to the surface. Thus,
this o9 epic has a very Jules Verne quality to it -- "P.C."
being the techno-equivalent to Verne's Journey to the Center
of the Earth.
Legg has a remarkable way of making his electronic sounds
radiate and shine, and all of his biomorphic beats have
lots of bounce. o9's journey to the center of the personal
computer is a breathtaking experience and one that's less-traveled
by most beatmeisters.
-- John Rickman
The Present Lover
My expectations could have never been met. The first
disk by Vladislav Delay under the Luomo moniker (Vocal
City) was one of my favorite disks of the last 5 years.
It was a dub-inflected, microhouse masterpiece. A side project
for the Helsinki-based techno artist that met with much
critical acclaim. I've been waiting four years to hear his
follow-up. It has finally arrived with "The Present
Lover," a perhaps more accessible disk that will surely
win Luomo some new fans while still pleasing fans of Vocal
City. Overall, The Present Lover features more
straightforward pop hooks than its predecessor and more
vocals than most fans would expect. Fans of minimal, more
spacious House may feel a bit short changed by this disk
when comparing it to Vocal City, but it is nevertheless
a worthy follow-up. Funky, sexy, and a little less patient
that Vocal City, The Present Lover will please anyone
who appreciates smart Microhouse music.
-- Robert Lanham
"Old Tyme Lemonade"
Train bombings, global warming, highway snipers, exposed
nipples... If you think things can't get any worse then
they are now, then you're not listening to "Olde Tyme
Lemonade," a compilation cd of the best of the worst
of the Olneyville and Providence, Rhode Island underground.
A cd repress of a popular cassette on the Hospital Productions
label, this compilation is sure to stand the test of time
as an aural barometer of the winds of paranoia and reactionary
surrealism currently breezing about. Sometimes the madness
gives way to magic -- sometimes it don't.
Post-millennial New England is currently a hotbed of do-it-yourself
anti-music, be it improvisational or otherwise. The region's
most formal musical structure is a special sort of hyper-intense,
cross-hybrid of hardcore punk and hair-metal.
"Lemonade" provides a spine-twisting contribution
from speed-metal masters Necronomitron, a very confusing
distort-o jam from Providence superstars Lightning Bolt,
an offering of doom and gloom muck from Suffering Bastard,
and the delightful mental mosh-pit pitter-patter of grindcore
freaks Drop Dead and Throne of Blood.
Mindflayer, a duo of rollicking percussion and power electronics,
send sparks a-flyin' with their contribution "Dust
Often." The studio trickery of Knights of Timbre's
"Speed Racer Remix" provides a glimmer of innocence
and joyous exuberance amidst the bulk of the compilation's
Yes, quite a few of the tracks are nothing more than anarchic,
lo-fi noise that are either best ignored or embraced for
their remarkable ability to be so broadly lacking. The attitude
spread throughout the ensuing 20 tracks is an unsettling
combination of apathy and Zen mayhem. It is what it is,
for better or for worse -- and things couldn't get worse
then they are now.
-- John Rickman
Our Endless Numbered Days
I'll keep this simple. The first record was really pretty.
This record is even more so. It's also a bit more crisp
and nuanced, now that Sam Beam is no longer recording from
out of his home. A little reminiscent of Elliot Smith. A
little reminiscent of Crosby, Stills and Nash, only without
harmonies. If you liked the first record, you'll love this
one. If you thought the first record was too sleepy, don't
-- Robert Lanham
Hole of Burning Alms
Dave Pajo has possibly the best indie music resume of anyone
recording. He has played with Slint, King Kong, Palace,
Tortoise, Stereolab, and Royal Trux. As a solo artist he
has been recording since 1995 as Aerial M, M, and later
as Papa M. Hole of Burning Alms is a compilation
of some of his strongest singles from 1995-2000. Most of
the disc consists of deceptively simple guitar/bass/drum
tracks but as the disc progresses drum machine and subtle
electronica are mixed into the blend. Pajo's take on "Turn,
Turn, Turn" (a song I thought I never needed to hear
again) is lovely. A great record for anyone who missed out
on these singles the first time around.
- Steve Raskin
Under Achievers Please Try Harder
Another band that sounds like Belle and Sebastian,
but one of the better bands that sound like Belle and Sebastian.
The cover image (which combined with the title seems dated
in a nineties, geek chic kind of way) was in fact taken
by B&S frontman Stuart Murdoch. Plus, like Belle and
Sebastian, Camera Obscura are from Glasgow. Derivative sound
aside, Under Achievers Please Try Harder is one of
the best records so far this year. Unless you're one of
those people who think retro-folk-pop music with ironic
lyric is for fags (and there are plenty of you out there),
this record is sure to please.
- Steve Raskin
Greatest Palace Music
Some people hate the lonesome and raw vocal style of early
Will Oldham from his Palace days. I'm not one of those people.
I love his newer records recorded under the Bonnie "Prince"
alias, but will always have a softer place in my heart for
his earlier, rawer work. Nevertheless, I was happy to hear
that the man of many aliases was re-recording Palace's greatest
tracks instead of simply repackaging them on a greatest
hits disc. If you prefer Bonnie "Prince" Billy
to Palace, you will love this record. If it's the other
way around for you, you'll still really like hearing reinterpretations
of some of your Palace favorites. Either way, this is an
enjoyable record through an through.
- Steve Raskin
They Were Wrong, So We Drowned
Alexander Laurence calls it the curse of FREEwilliamsburg.
Last year we gave the album of the year award to Liars and
they broke up. This year, the award went to My Morning Jacket
and the same thing happened. We were excited when we discovered
that Liars had quickly reunited, albeit with a new drummer.
Hopefully My Morning Jacket will follow suit. Unfortunately,
listening to They Were Wrong, So We Drowned is a
grueling experience. The drunk, chaotic, post-punk sounds
of earlier Liars recordings have been replaced by a droning,
pulsing, electronica-filled mess of a record. People who
like to listen to music because it's "challenging"
may like this record. Everyone else should avoid it.
- Steve Raskin