October Music Guide
a list of artists under its belt that includes Low, Windy
& Carl, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, and Doldrums, Kranky
is a very aptly named label. Though a very trustworthy indie
music brand, the artists on the label are usually played
at parties where heroin or way too much weed are present.
That said, I must say I was shocked when I popped Out Hud
into my CD player. I was expecting to mellow out in my easy
chair with a magazine, but two minutes into S.T.R.E.E.T.
D.A.D., I was ready to turn up the volume and dance. Out
Hud are a Brooklyn-based 5 piece who dabble in House, dub,
and hip hop in very inventive ways. Imagine Couch playing
dub-inflected dance music and you will get the idea. They
have been playing gigs in New York to much acclaim for close
to two years now and with this much-anticipated debut will
not disappoint their fans. Using guitar, bass, cello, drums,
and a touch of electronics OUT Hud have created a upbeat
record that is completely unexpected for the label and stylishly
Black Letter Days/Devil's Workshop
[spinART; 2002 (out now)]
artists are praised for creating music that is raw
or rough whereas other artists are criticized for
precisely the same reason. Frank Black is of the latter
category. Exile on Main Street, for example, is widely
considered to be one of the most important recordings in
rock history because of it rawness and its refusal to polish
its edges. Early recordings by Guided by Voices and even
the music of bands such as The Dirtbombs are also praised
for their rough, live sound.
Poor Frank Black; by recording live to two-track, it is
obvious he is simply trying to loosen his belt and have
a little fun by creating a more ragged sound. His "sloppiness"
is intentional and to my ears, refreshing. The simultaneously
released Black Letter Days and Devil's Workshop
both have a very seventies Stones sound and feel to them
and feature consistently strong songwriting. Regardless,
most critics have nothing kind to say because the records
don't sound like The Pixies. If you are still waiting for
a Pixies record my suggestion is to move on, like Frank
has, lest you will miss out on some very rewarding solo
work. Try out Black Letter Days first. It is the
stronger of the two, though Devil's workshop is enjoyable
too. If you are still salivating for a more Pixies-esque
record, pop in Surfer Rosa and pretend that Bush
Senior is still Vice President
-- Robert Lanham
Original Pirate Material
has already been written about The Streets so I will keep
it brief. The critics are right and wrong. They are right
in asserting that this is a good record. It is. They are
wrong in saying it is amazingly groundbreaking. It is just
a hip hop record with a British rapper who is not afraid
to sound British. Mike Skinner is talented and enjoyable
but he is not the second incarnation of Christ.
-- Robert Lanham
Yo La Tengo
latest EP by indie demigods Yo La Tengo sounds absolutely
nothing like anything they have ever recorded. It consists
of 4 versions of Sun Ra's "Nuclear War," a topic that seems
very topical these days given the cowboy rhetoric we are
hearing from the White House. Despite the theme of the record
and the chanting of "Nuclear war, it's a motherfucker/
If they push that button, your ass gotta go" this EP
is surprisingly playful. Like the original recording by
Sun Ra, the versions of the song on this disk are very free
in form and nostalgic of the early Seventies.
The first track features the band chanting and having what
sounds like a great time trading off on percussion. On the
second track, a chorus of children replaces the band, undoubtedly
delighting in the opportunity to say motherfucker
repetitiously without getting a scolding. The third track
is the real zinger though, featuring guest appearances by
Susie Ibarra, Josh Madell, Roy Campbell Jr., Daniel Carter
and Sabir Mateenby and some free from jazz that would make
Sun Ra proud. The band will be playing 8 Hanukkah shows
again this year in Hoboken, so get your tickets now.
-- Robert Lanham
I'll spend the same amount of time on this review as Large
Professor did attempting to be original. It's derivative
as hell. Large Professor wants to sound like Tribe Called
Quest or Nas, but lacks the rhyming and songwriting ability.
This record would have been dated 10 years ago. Granted,
Large Professor has produced great work by many hip hop
legends from the early 90's, but he should have stayed behind
-- Mandy Sussman
The Mercury Program
A Data Learns its Language
love to attach the ubiquitous "post-rock" tag
onto any record that challenges the conventions of your
typical 2 guitar/1 bass/drummer paradigm. In these burgeoning
times of trust-fund fueled "raw" rock , anything
that deviates from the vocal-oriented, verse/chorus/verse
formula is forced into a common niche. A Data Learns it
Language will certainly be there, and deservedly so, because
there currently isn't a better example of tight, looping,
instrumental rock. Like the Dylan Group or Mice Parade,
the vibraphone is a huge player in the overall sound. (Add
your prerequisite Tortoise comparison here). A solid, introspective
long player from the Tiger Style crew.
Q and Not U
no denying the impact Dischord Records has had on underground
music culture. Even after 20 years, they still find a way
to release records from quality bands from the DC area (see
Faraquet as well). On Different Damage, Q and Not U continue
in the spirit of their taut debut No Kill, No Beep Beep,
expanding on the Dischord post-punk sound with metronomic
start/stops, passionately spit enigmatic lyrics and a funky
dubbed out rhythmic timing. Stop complaining about how Beefeater's
"Play's for Lovers" reminds you of the good times
and keep the magic alive with next-gen Dischord. Solidly
produced by Fugazi's Ian MacKaye and Inner Ear's Don Zientara.
I hope this record gets to you somehow, because the odds
are that you'll never hear it and that would be a shame.
The Cassettes are a bunch of guys from obscure DC area indies
like Frodus, Dead Meadow and Weird War and if you have heard
any of these bands you may imagine this an angst-filled
exercise in noise. Suprisingly, The Cassettes throw down
10 nuggets of what Lovitt describes as "post-punk psychedelia
or neo-garage rock for basement show kids." Although
these phrases may induce vomitting, they are nontheless
accurate given the band's history and context. This self-titled
release is in fact filled with memorable, melodic anachronisms
bringing to mind tweeter-bursting classic rock, introspective
singer/songwriter-isms and solid trans-Atlantic anthems.
Seed to Sun
ultimate prefix record. Post-, neo-, whatever it is that
preceeds the style, Seed to Sun represents a beautiful amalgam
of it all. Boom Bip, aka Bryan Hollon, drops a lovely, introspective
collection of deeply personal and relevant music. With equal
attention on the strengths of cinematic rock, laptop jockeyism
and fringe hip-hop experimentalism this is a record made
by and for someone into the now sound. Go to your collection,
start with 'A', grab some random disks - Atmosphere, American
Analog Set, Authechre, Aerial M. You'll like this record.
Drop down to 'B' - Broadcast, Boards of Canada, even Basehead.
You'll enjoy it. I hope you get the picture. Out now on
Warp's fledgling label, Lex.
Wild Life Documentaries
Montheit, a.k.a. Deadbeat, is one of the rising stars of
Montreal's burgeoning electronic music scene and he shares
his Canadian peers' mastery of slick, digital craftsmanship
and fondness for the glitch. However, Deadbeat's clicks
and cuts take a backseat to a dark, plodding Jamaican skank
bathed in a murky soup-like echo chamber. The tracks on
"Wild Life" tend to stew rather than evolve, and
hang like smoke from a bubbling cauldron, the rhythms of
which rattle rather than bounce, like the summoning forth
an old indian spirit or voodoo spell.
It's a mostly foggy affair from track to track, as each
groove hovers just above ambient status, but just below
dynamic complexity, and the disc as a whole sounds a bit
samey. However, track two, "Organ in the Attic Sings
the Blues," is a nice, suspenseful interlude and is
perhaps the one instance where the glitchy backdrop becomes
more noticeably charged amid the sad, haunting melody.
The disc contains odes to Berlin, Israel, and Akufen, the
latter of which refers to Montreal's techno super-star of
the moment Marc LeClair. On "A Dub For Akufen,"
Montheit momentarily clears away the rattling debris and
hovering dub-fog, allowing samples of LeClair's expansive
synth tones to fill in the space. However, the result of
this respectful exercise is ultimately just as static as
the rest of the tracks on "Wild Life." Deadbeat's
sophomore effort makes for excellent wallpaper, and is enjoyable
as such, but its lack of dynamics makes it an unessential
Sound; 2002 (out now)]
Adrian Sherwood's On-U Sound label has been releasing eclectic,
politically charged, electronic hyper-dub reggae music since
the late seventies/early eighties. Over the years, the British
On-U roster has included reggae, punk, and funk superstars
such as Bim Sherman, Mark Stewart, Lee Perry, Annie Anxiety,
Gary Clail, Prince Far I - many of whom have collaborated
in Sherwood's studio to create original, reggae fusion sounds.
The On-U sound has always had its eye on the future, successfully
recontextualizing Jamaican roots music through Sherwood's
skillful, redefined art of dub engineering and emphasis
on electronic samples and instrumentation. The label initially
brought attention to their modern reggae sounds through
their low-priced Pay It All Back samplers, but now On-U
has entered the new millennium with a new roster and a new
sampler called Chainstore Massacre.
The collection features a few new reggae sounds from old
On-U favorites, such as Dub Syndicate, Little Axe, and even
Adrian Sherwood himself with a shuffling rhythmic workout
called "Xplanation." Little Roy's "Heavy
Going" is the most rootsy of the bunch and is a delightful,
sunny pop song.
On-U superstar Mark Stewart's compilation contribution
is, however, disturbingly reminiscent of KMFDM with its
sampled guitar riffs, and Stewart's vocals have morphed
from panicked and frantic to simply sinister. Ri Ra's gangsta
rap sound on "25 O'Clock" seems out of place on
an On-U disc, even though it shares the same love of electronic
beats and looped samples. However, it's a refried effort
and has no place among the other, more original sounds.
Asian Dub Foundation and New Zealand's Salmonella Dub have
the phattest reggae jams on the sampler, the former of which
rock mean tablas and distorted guitars to big effect, while
the latter's "Push on Thru" is wistful, yet confident
and has a bass line as big as any sported by Jah Wobble.
Chainstore Massacre may not be the best introduction
to the ON-U sound, but it's certainly an adequate update,
and is worth it for the Skip McDonald and Sinead O'Connor
collaboration alone. "My Love I Bring" passes
the goosebump test, highlighting impressive interplay between
O'Connor's typically emotive vocals and McDonald's lyrical
guitar. A light reggae groove shares the spotlight with
a background of Celtic flutes, providing the best example
of On-U's futurist reggae fusion. Recommended.
The Legend of Tiger Mask
Sleep Records; 2002 (out now)]
you're feelin' wet and whacky-and even a little pissed off-this
is the album for you. The first time I heard this band's
demo, I was like "What the heck is this!" I remembered
a lot of screaming at the tops of lungs and cacophony. Thankfully,
these elements haven't been completely refined for their
official debut release (in stores November 12). They professionally
incorporate a few but necessary sounds from weird places:
an answering machine message, kazoo noises, random chatter
amongst bandmates (including vocalist/guitarist Kentaro
Saito; avant garde drummer, Mike Pride, of Mr. Bungle side
project The MP3; and their fifth bassist, Byrne Kley), mocked
sounds from a fat, constipated Asian man-"reely, reely,
reely, reely wundafo!" Then you get this mad yelling
like you're in a cage with rabid apes during "Eat Shit
(Everything They Taught Me in College)" which should
make perfect sense with a title like that. These guys are
so much fun and the music is so whacked out of its mind,
while maintaining a great deal of quality musicianship that
is extremely listenable, especially after you've acquired
the taste after the fifth listening. Now I can't get enough!
I was fired from this snobby 4-star restaurant job a couple
days ago, and I'm telling you, no music did me justice like
this album. Instant catharsis, fun, and Kung Fu lessons
for this society. And they know how to chill too, with smooth
jams like the jazzified "Dead Meat" vocalized
by Kentaro, who whispers the lines with a sexy, subtle,
Japanese accent. It's Prince from Japan. Then there's "Chillin'"
which embodies the entire essence of the emotion that is
"I Want to be Chillin'." "Pissed Off Pussies"
is pure jazz. Do they make sense? Uh, no. But who cares.
I'm ready for some unpredictability on an album. They're
from New York City/Brooklyn. A crowd fave at this year's
Block Island Music Festival in Rhode Island, according to
their press release, and regulars at CBGBs and the Knitting
Factory. Check 'em out at dynamiteclub.com.
(Overcoat Recordings; 2002)
a past life Richard Buckner may have been a frontiersman,
a lumberjack, or for that matter, a linebacker. In this
one he's a soft-spoken singer-songwriter with the build
of a well-fed woodsman and the soul of a poet. As my friend
Pat puts it as Buckner sneaks on stage in Fall River, Massachusetts,
"He looks like a Richard Buckner." But for a man
so bearish and burly, he puts forth an image that is entirely
unimposing, almost as if he's making an effort to go unnoticed.
Try as he might, Buckner leaves a lasting imprint, in person
and on record, which sticks around long after he's gone.
We traveled to Fall River, a burned-out mill town in Southeastern,
Massachusetts, to catch Buckner as he plays one of a handful
of dates in the Northeast in support of his new album, Impasse.
The venue is a gutted warehouse run by local artists who
utilize the space for gallery openings, studio space, and
weekly performances. Somehow this town, a place of great
history that never quite recovered from the Great Depression,
and this venue, an if-these-walls-could-talk type place,
seem a perfect fit for Buckner's brooding melodies and literary-minded
Buckner begins with the title track off his new album,
a moody ballad that trails off on a downer: "I wish
that I could see you now/Call me if you're crawling, too."
Though during Buckner's live show he plays unaccompanied,
on Impasse he's joined by his wife Penny Jo on drums. Every
other instrument on the album is played by Buckner himself.
Impasse finds Buckner making no attempts to hide the skeletons
in his closet or mask the unabashed sad-sackery some critics
have accused him of. And why should he? Buckner's roughhewn
tenor would lose its potency when faced with the prospect
of sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows -- not to mention love
that works out the way it's supposed to.
Not unlike Buckner's previous albums, Impasse courses with
sedate melodies and chilling vocals. Buckner's lyrics are
as intriguing to the ear as they are to the mind. Presented
in the album's liner notes in the form of a lengthy poem
and without distinction between songs, Buckner's cryptic
narratives rely on interesting word combinations for content
as much as delivery. "But, that's the way the blur
was used/Cap it off and crawl away/The summits were so little
then/Asking to be home-to-stay," Buckner sings on "Loaded
@ the Wrong Door."
During his performance in Fall River Buckner cycles through
a collection of songs drawn from his earlier albums, Devotion
and Doubt and The Hill, plus several from Impasse. Midway
through his set he has already reduced several audience
members to tears, several more seem to be teetering on the
brink. This prolonged soul-splaying has Buckner himself
Buckner ends his set with "Fater," a sorrowful
a cappela number from Devotion and Doubt. He steps away
from the microphone, drops his hands to his sides, and fills
the warehouse with his voice: "I saw such light in
you/Crushed by the basement view/The night I lost my light
." As Buckner walks off stage and
packs up his guitar, nobody moves, nobody even claps, everyone
just kind of trembles.
As we drive home that night I break out my copy of Impasse
and offer to play Pat a few songs that Buckner didn't get
around to tonight. Pat's eyes grow wide and he jumps to
block the CD player. "Dude," he says, "Not
tonight. Maybe tomorrow. I'm still recovering."
we last left Tori Amos, she was translating and re-interpreting
prose by the likes of folks from Eminem to Neil Young with
her all-covers "Strange Little Girls" album. With
her latest release we find Amos, as Scarlet, at it again,
traversing through familiar musical landscapes with "Scarlet's
Walk." As she travels America, Scarlet (via Amos) create
a patchwork story for us to follow, in a sense, providing
narrative for the journey along the way. Perhaps America
is a different place to wander through days, but somehow
Amos presents us with a new body of work that is strangely
familiar as it is comforting and disconcerting at the same
Really, since her first album, Amos' calling card has seemed
to veer in the direction of 'word-as-power' and "Scarlet's
Walk is no exception to this rule. Amos continues to let
it be known the strength that defines her talents can be
divined from the tools of everyday language. Granted some
of the lyrics border on the corny, and perhaps Tori has
added a few too many breathless sighs on such tracks as
"Wampum Prayer" that are reminiscent more of a
Broadway drama-queen expressing teenage-angst-riddled pain.
But on the whole, Amos weaves a tale of travels that evoke
a sense of power. Our heroine and resident explorer, as
Scarlet, meanders about on tracks such as "Amber Waves,"
"Stranger," and "Crazy" that somberly
drift from high to low points with the help of Amos and
crew. Tori's vocals, harmonizing with her superb keyboarding,
even set the toes to tapping though toe-tapping often seems
oddly inappropriate throughout much of the album.
Generally, "Scarlet's Walk" is a mood of disconnected
isolation that, evidently, serves our journey-woman well
though parts may leave some a bit discombobulated. Even
strangers at rush hour in Grand Central can meld into nothing
more than a surreal wallpaper when juxtaposed to the tune
of "A Sorta Fairytale." This track is, sadly,
destined to get too much airplay and will become a cliché
within the next week or so. But, such is typical Tori-magic.
From the first time I heard her, in concert with The Cavedogs,
I had a vague understanding of why I liked her. As a musician,
Tori Amos has an impressive ability to change the ordinary
into something we never imagined was even a possibility.
Despite a few teensy flaws, "Scarlet's Walk" affirms
this theory for me once again.
- Derek Elmer