The Music Guide - May 2002
Super Furry Animals - Rings Around the World
too ambitious is rarely good thing. Bands too frequently ruin
a good thing by trying to cover too much ground and by refusing
to narrow their vision. The classic example of this is The
Clash' Sandinista!, a record that would have been a
5-star classic as a single LP, but ended up a mediocre 3-sided
recording showcasing the bands influences and lack of restraint.
Super Furry Animal's latest Rings Around the World,
never approaches the decadence of Sandinista!, but
nonetheless could have used an editor's touch. This double
record by the Welsh pop extraordinaires is slickly produced,
overflowing with influences, and fleetingly beautiful. Unfortunately,
it would have worked better if some of the excesses and electronic
trickery had been pared down. If you are new to the band pick
up the superior Mwng first; a stronger record that
unlike Rings is sung in Welsh and is more consistent
as a whole. This said, Rings Around the World is still
a highly enjoyable recording reminiscent of Brian Wilson,
had the Beach Boys wonder boy had access to a lap top and
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.
- "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.
Martha & The Muffins - "Select Cuts
From Echo Beach - Remix Versions" (Select Cuts
see if you can follow me on this: Ex-label manager for On-U
Sound and Crammed Discs Nicolai Beverungen starts his own
label Echo Beach, named after the '80s, Toronto-based new-wave
band Martha & The Muffins' first hit single. The label is
established as a means of releasing modern dub music, mostly
remixes of past classics, but doesn't get around to compiling
remixes of his Canadian heros until his sub-label Select Cuts
So this new tribute disc on Select Cuts compiles 13 remixes
of the Martha & The Muffins hit "Echo Beach." A compilation
that can only appeal to M+M's die-hard fans or to folks that
have to have every remix by their favorite artist. In this
case, the artists include such luminaries as Thomas Fehlmann,
Gabriel Del Mar, and Jimmy Cauty among others, who contribute
dancey, dubbed out, contemporary versions of this old eighties
The original version is also included here with a slightly
digital-sounding upgrade, and surprisingly sounds as if it
was made just yesterday, perhaps proving that Martha and her
Muffins were somewhat ahead of the curve at the time. However,
unlike the original, the tame house and dub versions included
here will most likely succumb to a gradual degrading of relevance
over time. This disc is strictly for the M+M fanbase.
V/A - "Inhouse Volume Two - Modern
House Sounds From Deepest Germany" (E:Motion)
we have a tepid compilation of German house sounds best-suited
for international jet-setters and cocktail loungers. Strictly
for casual listening, this uninnovative collection of soulful
house tunes goes in one ear and out the other. Some of it
is nice and sounds pretty good when you're shoppin at the
Gap or people-watching at Club Swank, but so what?
It's described as deep house, but rarely gets deeper than
track 4's "Walkin Thru Circles (Thump Mix)" by Needs. This
track comes the closest to sounding like an old Strictly Rhythm
deep house single thanks to its soulful simplicity and classic
drum machine sounds. Otherwise this disc is chock-full of
inflight euro-house with plenty of diva moans and groans.
Andrew Pekler - "Station To Station"
something very tasteful for those who like elements of jazz
in their electronica. Andrew Pekler, also a member of the
Sad Rockets and Bergheim 34, fuses moody, late-night grooves
and dub loops with finger snapping bop on his first solo album.
Combining sequenced precision with live instrumentation isn't
something entirely new, but Pekler's approach is delightfully
subtle and unrepetitive.
"You Are Here" sets the predominately low-key mood with its
light, percussive brush work and a nice soulful loop that
bubbles under nicely. The mood shifts from track to track,
with trace elements of Denny-esque exotica and scat-worthy
be-bop, but for the most part it's quite a relaxing listen
that leans heavily on Berlin's urban dub style.
The track "Manchild" features jazz veterans Elliot Levin on
saxophone and Akira Ando on upright bass, both of whom have
played with Cecil Taylor in the past. Pekler also invited
others to sit in on piano and trumpet as well. "Station To
Station" clocks in at 45 minutes but ends much too soon in
my opinion. Here's hoping Andrew Pekler follows up with another
helping of smooth sounds.
Random Logic - "Numrebs" (Tehnika)
superstars Random Logic's debut full-length "Numrebs" is
a deep, dubby techno disc that will file nicely next to
your Berlin glitch and frosty Icelandic beats. These folks
have released singles on other, more floor-friendly lables
like Kial, Tresor, and Djax-Up Beats, under different names,
however these tracks stray from the frantic thump of those
labels' four-four aesthetic and lean more towards the blunted
side of deep techno.
The "Numrebs" sound is that of an emptied meat locker: Metallic
echoes, clicky beats, and creaking floors. This disc has
an organic soul that grows in strength throughout each track,
with its synth washes and minimal melodies that build upon
each track's mood. The bare minimum of melody is surrounded
by a rickety, skeleton of rhythmic architecture that has
a propensity to stay locked in tempo. There's not much chaos
to be found on this disc, aside from the elaborate design
of the disc's packaging. It's actually quite simple and
subtle, and perhaps uneccesary to own if your collection
is filled with these au courant sounds, but the sounds are
sweet and composed nicely.
At first listen it may sound familiar, perhaps unoriginal,
but it has a hypnotic quality about it that keeps my finger
far from my cd player's eject button. "Numrebs" proves to
be another worthy addition to the glitch'n'dub pantheon
of techno music and is a very enjoyable listen.
Metropolitan - "Down For You Is Up"
the home of labels TeenBeat and Simple Machines, indie-rock's
heyday lives on in Arlington, VA.'s current crop of pop bands,
and leading the way perhaps, is the three-piece Metropolitan.
Saadat Awan, Shyam Telikicherla, and John Masters have a solid
rock sound that combines youthful energy and a good ear for
John Masters' vocals, emotive and just a tad snotty, suck
you in on songs like "Slide Rule," "You Want It," and "Incidental."
Musically, Metropolitan refrains from composing outside the
realm of what is expected from a pop trio of bass, drums,
and guitar. Despite their devotion to Sonic Youth and Television,
the end result of their collaboration is more akin to your
everyday neighborhood garage band. While some bands belong
in the basement, Metropolitan's heart is just too big to be
restrained and their tunes just too infectious to ignore.
While some contemporary pop bands try to sound too much like
one old band or the other, Metropolitan uniquely blends many
old favorites into one cohesive mix that effectively revives
the optimistic mood of the early '90s.