October Music Guide
Beck - Sea Change-
Are you depressed or trying to be considered
a "serious artist," Mr. Hanson? Beck is in
his blue period and boy is it dull.
Ryan Adams, Demolition -
If you liked Gold (I did), you will like this
too. Though not as much. The production is thankfully
a little less slick, but the songs are weaker. I guess
that's why they were outtakes.
Low, Trust- A very solid follow-up
to the disappointing Things We Lost in the Fire.
Like older recordings, Trust is wonderfully dark
and creepy. Plus, one track has guest vocals by Gerry
Buckley of America--no joke. Not to be missed.
Mary Lee's Corvette, Blood
on the Tracks, Arlene Grocery- As part
of Arlene Grocery's classic album series, MLC covered
this classic Dylan record from start to finish. She
pulls it off well and has a strong voice, but unless
you are going to deviate from a note-for-note reproduction
(as she does) I don't see the point.
Regenerated Headpiece - Rat
Race Vacation - This one has been out
a while but is worth mentioning. RRV is a hip
hop record without the bling bling that comes off as
a more melodic Anti-Pop Consortium. In other words,
it's the kinda shit white boys dig. My favorite hip
hop CD of 2001.
Barbecue Beets: Sunrise
on a Rooftop in Brooklyn - A chilled-out
blend of dub, hip-hop, and house mixed by DJ Olive.
This is the rare compilation that doesn't sound disjointed.
Blunted, relaxing, and beautiful. (It is hard to find
TM is the first artist I've heard in a long time who doesn't
sound like a dork using a vocoder. Equal parts Matmos, Beck,
and Mum, Zoomer is vocal-driven glitch pop that is
fun from start to finish. This is the type of breezy and
melodic record that I had hoped Beck would make. Zoomer
takes glitch pop to a place it hasn't been before by placing
an emphasis on songwriting as opposed to beats and effects.
Be warned, this record is addictive, despite the cheesy
[Kill Rock Stars; 2002]
the release of their latest album, One Beat, lot of people
will, undoubtedly, pontificate on Sleater-Kinney's ability
to kick ass just as good (and in many cases, a hell of a
lot better than) their male counterparts. Well, those chatty
folks are correct. S-K prove this, again, to be the case
with, One Beat. With the help of producer John Goodmanson,
S-K continues to push their boundaries farther out as their
sound continues it's subtle evolution while still staying
true to it's raucous 'turn-it-down-or-I'm-calling-the-cops'
I'd be willing to bet that to disperse pent-up aggression,
even "Oopsie Daisy" listens to this album after
one of her Bad, Bad Days. The amount of energy to be divined
from One Beat is probably equivalent to three or four intensive
back-to-back cardio Kickboxing classes, and the best part
about that is you don't even need to don leg warmers to
listen. The title track hits you about as hard as one of
those kick boxers would upon stumbling over her in a dark
alley at 3am. The same is true for "Oh" and "Step
Aside," a track that illustrates what Motown would've
sounded like had Barry Gordy not moved it to California
before the indie-flavored punk scene established itself
in Detroit. Corin Tucker's wails resonate throughout "Step
Aside" in an oddly pleasing way as Carrie Brownstein
and Janet Weiss cheerily back Tucker's angst-filled voice
with a "step aside, step aside" be-boppy chorus.
You can't help but find a sturdy piece of furniture to climb
atop to dance, rage or break
whatever you need to do
to expend some energy in a show of support for Kinney's,
at times, tribal sound.
For those fearful of too much exertion as a result of heavy
listening, don't fret. "Light Rail Coyote" and
"Funeral Song" hit you in the face with a mountain
of sound too. However, instead of exploding and climbing
to uncharted higher levels of power, each track occasionally
drifts back into a melodically-rare pillow-soft chorus before
slapping you in the face again with S-K's trademark guitar-drum-vocal
My friend Julie likes Sleater-Kinney not for the bossy
riffs, indie-rock drumbeat or any post-punk lyrical emanations
that could potentially slam into her head. Forgoing the
conventionally-held notion that S-K is relegated only to
delivering socio-political, grrrl-power punk, Julie digs
Carrie, Corin, and Janet simply because they all have good
haircuts. After one spin of this CD, however, I wouldn't
be surprised to catch even Julie passionately strumming
a few air-guitar chords as she progresses through One Beat
track by track.
an electronic duo consisting of Alejandro Cohen and Marcos
Chloca, have a sunny, modern pop sound that combines soundtrack
ambience and a unique approach to songwriting. Each track
has a shimmering glow about it, radiating warmth and melodies
that pulsate. Glitchy sounds trickle down here and there,
but are essentially cast off like sunspots amid distorting
guitars and vibrating synth tones.
The closest comparison I can think of to describe the sounds
found on "Untied" would be to say that many of
the disc's songs sound like Mouse on Mars' first single
"Frosch," back when that duo's sound was much
more simplistic and sonic. However, Languis rarely if ever
utilize those sounds in a similar rhythmic context. "Untied"
is generally pretty relaxing and practically beatless.
"Touch a Cloud" has a nice, shuffling rhythm,
but it's purposefully buried beneath bubbly sequences, synth
sweeps, and soft-spoken vocals. Plucky guitar melodies also
spring to life within the track, as they do throughout the
disc as a whole, and are a nice addition to the many sounds
featured in each song. The duo's effective ability to create
a sense of depth from track to track is a strength that
many artists who attempt to combine electronics with a sense
of instrumentation often fail to achieve.
The disc's closer, "Strip Me Out of My Time,"
is a nice floating ball of gaseous electronics, random burps,
and far-off theremins, gently placing the listener into
a dream state after a nice little trip around the sun. "Untied"
is best approached with your shoes off, your head rested,
and your mind open to new orbits of imagination.
Swallowed by Machinery V.3
There are lots of compilations floating around. Some are
theme-oriented, some are label promoters, and then there
are those ubiquitous indie comps that combine anyone and
everyone for no reason at all, other than to simply bring
any and all intersted parties together in the spirit of
D.I.Y. togetherness. Usually these samplers are hit and
miss, but sometimes you discover a brand new talent or idea
that piques your interest outside of any cohesive context.
Fortunately for those lucky enough to stumble across the
third installment of Boise, Idaho label Fort Hazel's "Swallowed
By Machinery" series are sure to stumble upon something
mind expanding. This sampler, which features home tapers
from all over the world, has a little something for everybody
from the lo-fi, psychedelic techno of ENE, the epic metalcore
of Baton Rouge's Encompass and Stalemate, to the snide noise
pop of Bengeorge7.
The Lights, Zann, A Radio With Guts, and a few others provide
the ever-enduring and endearing indie rock experience. Deerhoof's
"I Hear an Echo" sounds like a cross between the
Jimi Hendrix Experience and Blonde Redhead, with their groovy
breakdowns and emotive female vocals. The label band Lowbelly
deserves major props for it's inventive, instrumental chamber-pop
song, and there's even a track from the king of compilations,
Troy of Eerie Materials, under the guise of Department of
Experimental Health. All and all a good bet.
techno thrives in Slovenia. Artists like Inigo Kennedy,
Umek, and others continue to release single after single
of hard-as-nails, 4/4 stompers on such labels as Absense,
Kial, and Consumer Recreation. However, there's recently
been more of a push towards the cold, minimal Maurizio-style
of electronics, with labels like Tehnika seeking to expand
the attention span of the average Slovenian techno fan.
New Tehnika artist Jernej Marusic, a.k.a. Octex, is a good
example of the direction some of the Slovenian artists are
taking, which combines the glitch and dub sounds of German
minimalism with the deeply chilled sounds of Icelandic techno.
Unfortunately, this combination doesn't break any new ground,
and only manages to simply provide more of what most fans
have come to expect from this genre of music.
The Octex full-length "Idei Lahesna" grooves
here and there, especially "Emergon" which gets
to skankin' from the get go, with it's simple mid-tempo
dance beat and stately synth stabs. But the track doesn't
excite the imagination in any way, and neither do most of
the more evolving tracks on the disc. The stark, black and
white depiction of towering blocks on the disc's cover adequately
reflects the bleak, simplistic sound constructions found
on "Idei Lahesna."
Those who seek evolving, heady 4/4 moods would be better
served by continuing to look towards Germany and Iceland,
and look to Slovenia for the punishing sounds of Umek and
Ladytron were one of the great new electro bands of 2000.
They challenged the music world with their singles "Playgirl"
and "He Took Her To A Movie." The NME picked the
latter as single of the week. When their first album 604
came out in early 2001, they inspired many bands to take
up the analog synth. In the wake of Electroclash, Ladytron
helped to define the scene.
Whereas the first record was mostly written by Daniel,
this is their first band record and right away with the
track "True Mathematics" you know it's going to
be great. Most of the retro sounds founds on 604
are gone and their beats have evolved. Ladytron is unique
and they are going to make people happy with this one.
is one of the many Electroclash compilations that has hit
the shelves in recent months. While many will have heard
some of these tracks before, it serves as a great introduction
to the Electroclash scene. Stand-out artists include Memory
Boy, Miss Kitten & The Hacker, and Bis who fit in well
alongside more well-known artists like Peaches and Felix
Da Housecat. Of course, Fischerspooner is included, but
their new single "Emerge" is a better track than
the one included on this compilation. You can get together
with some of your friends, take some speed, and listen to
this CD for hours. Hopefully, this CD will make people want
to discover earlier Electro artists like Soft Cell who are
putting out a new CD this month.
1. Invisible performed by Fischerspooner
2. (There Is No) Electricity performed by Memory Boy
3. Character Maps performed by Japanese Telecom
4. Life on MTV performed by Miss Kittin / Hacker
5. Electrik City performed by ShapeShifter / Sentinel
6. I Don't Care performed by Dexter
7. Fat Girls performed by Innate
8. AAXXX performed by Peaches
9. The End Starts Today performed by Bis
10. Contagious performed by Adult
11. You Don't Sleep performed by Bug Orchestra
12. This Is It performed by Mr. Velcro Fastener
13. Artifical Intelligence performed by Detroit Grand Pubahs
14. Silver Screen Shower Scene performed by Felix Da Housecat
Total Lee! The Songs of Lee Hazelwood
Hazelwood was always one of those obscure songwriters of
the 1950s and 1960s that was never cool in his day. He even
had to play second fiddle to Nancy Sinatra. Thanks to a
few cover versions by The Birthday Party and Einsturzende
Neubaten in the early 1980s, Hazelwood was rewritten as
a poet comparable to Leonard Cohen or Scott Walker. That's
why bands like Pulp, Lambchop, and St. Etienne find time
to do cover versions of his songs.
Though too many songs on this comp are almost sound-for-sound
recreations, highlights include Calexico doing "Sundown,
Sundown" with a great brass section, and Johnny Dowd
doing "Sleep in The Grass" because it sounds like
he recorded it in a shack in Oklahoma. Jarvis Cocker &
Richard Hawley do the song "A Cheat" as if they
are the last members of The Birthday Party hanging out in
Berlin strung out on heroin. Ultimately, Hazelwood's music
is filled with a humor that is ignored by most artists on
this record who only see him as a melancholy figure.
1. I'm Glad I Never performed by Lambchop
2. Come on Home to Me performed by Madrugada / Neil McNasty
3. Some Velvet Morning performed by Webb Brothers
4. Sundown, Sundown performed by Calexico / Valerie Leulliot
5. Sleep in the Grass performed by Johnny Dowd
6. Got It Together Again performed by Saint Etienne / Nathan
7. The Railroad performed by Saint Thomas
8. A Cheat performed by Jarvis Cocker / Richard Hawley
9. No Train to Stockholm performed by Erlend Oye
10. Soul's Island performed by Amazing Pilots
11. Easy and Me performed by Kathryn Williams
12. My Autumn's Done Come performed by Tindersticks
13. We All Make the Little Flowers Grow performed by Stephen
Jones / Luke Scott
14. Sand performed by Calvin Johnson / Mark Pickerel
15. Summer Wine performed by Evan Dando / Sabrina Brooke
16. If It's Monday Morning performed by Kid Loco / Tim Keegan
Faithfull, once the sexiest fuck buddy in Swinging London
is now a 55-year-old grandmother who has overcome scandal,
drugs, The Rolling Stones, a suicide attempt and a breakdown
on live TV. Faithfull spent the ensuing two decades in a
drug haze, often sleeping on the streets, turning tricks,
and inspiring Absolutely Fabulous, but she still managed
to release some fine albums, notably 1979's Broken English.
She still swears and smokes like a sailor. Like an old whore
targeting younger fans, Faithfull recorded this album (separately)
with Beck, Billy Corgan, Blur, and Pulp, as well as her
old friend Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics. She may no longer
be the virginal chanteuse who was every male's fantasy,
but she still has a certain allure. Most of the record is
solid and you'll wonder why Pulp would provide her with
such good songs, when their own album could have used a
antagonists might argue that the genre is over-intellectualized
and merely a refuge for art school drop-outs and wannabes
who never quite got the hang of their chosen instruments.
Frustrated, confused, and a bit loopy on cough syrup they
instead resorted to beating them with household implements.
Enthusiasts counter that avant-garde musicians are frontier
blazing cosmonauts whose free-form musings probe the boundaries
of our senses; their music is a shared experience between
listener and performer, a process of discovery. Me, I ride
the fence. Sometimes experimental music blows my mind. Sometimes
it numbs it. Sometimes both at once.
Merzbeat, the latest U.S. release from prolific Japanese
noise artist Merzbow (Masami Akita) puts him well on his
way toward achieving his goal of recording 1,000 albums
in his lifetime. (His 50 album box set, Merzbox, released
in 2000, didn't hurt either.) The five song album, Akita's
fourth release in 2002, combines his stock guitar fractals
and synthesized flotsam with an interesting new element:
drum loops; bowel loosening rhythms that ground his compositions
instead of allowing them to roam rootless over uncharted,
and occasionally unpleasant soundscapes. The beats give
Akita's compositions a rolling hip hop feel.
Often experimental music gets a bad rap because, at times,
it seems functionless and mildly condescending; art with
a message that is purposely unclear and stridently baffling,
like, say, a performance artist who dry humps a telephone
pole, then takes a bow. Merzbeat is the opposite. While
remaining improvisational and unconstrained, Akita laces
his compositions with recurring themes and plodding beats
that give the songs direction and purpose - a sonic experiment
certainly, but one with a promising result. Merzbeat is
not for the faint-of-heart or the simple-minded, but it
is experimental music done well.
If you're not interested in purchasing Merzbeat for the
music, then perhaps for the seals. Word is Akita has a strange
obsession with the slippery critters. Well, one in particular:
Minazow, the only male elephant seal in Japan. A portion
of the proceeds from the album, which is also dedicated
to the seal, will be donated to the New England Aquarium
in Minazow's name.