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October Music Guide

The Skinny:

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 so look here.)

--Robert Lanham

Schneider TM

[Mute; 2002]

Schneider 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 cover.

--Robert Lanham

One Beat

[Kill Rock Stars; 2002]

With 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' roots.

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 recipe.

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.

-Derek Elmer



Languis, 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

(Fort Hazel)

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.


Idei Lahesna


Hard 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 the like.



Emperor Norton

Liverpool's 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.

--Alexander Laurence

Various Artists
Defining Tech


This 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.

Track List:

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

--Alexander Laurence

Various Artists
Total Lee! The Songs of Lee Hazelwood

Lee 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.

Track List

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 Bennet
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

--Alexander Laurence

Marianne Faithful
Kissin Time


Marianne 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 couple.

--Alexander Laurence

(Important Records)

Noise 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.

--Daniel Schulman


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[email protected] | October 2002 | Issue 31
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