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May Music Reviews

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"
(Hospital Productions)

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 unyielding rot.

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

Iron and Wine
Our Endless Numbered Days

(Sub Pop)

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 bother.

-- Robert Lanham

Papa M
Hole of Burning Alms

(Drag City)

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

Camera Obscura
Under Achievers Please Try Harder

(Merge Records)

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

Bonnie "Prince" Billy
Greatest Palace Music

(Drag City)

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

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