THE SHALABI EFFECT

Deep in the heart of Harvard Square lies the best record shop in the Boston area, a quiet place known as Twisted Village, where owners Wayne and Kate welcomed the four-piece collective from Montreal to entertain an intimate gathering of current fans of the group. I say "current fans" bearing in mind that after hearing their stunning debut and witnessing the talented display, it won't be long before many others catch on. Of course the loose connections to godspeed will no doubt be somewhat helpful. The 20+ crowd that gathered sat quietly in a dimly-lit store while the group played improvisational variants on tunes and melodies heard on their debut. Those present were Anthony on guitar, Alexandre St. Onge on electrics, Will Eizlini playing tablas, bowl, and other percussives and Sam Shalabi on electronics and an oud (an Egyptian precursor to the lute). The combination of Middle Eastern sounds combined with electronic noises and delayed guitars was hypnotic to say the least. Pleasant and peaceful, this is surely a moment I will never forget. The band was quite excited as this crowd was most likely bigger than the one present at the Knitting Factory in NYC only a couple nights earlier. The band is criss-crossing the northeast US over the next couple weeks, their dates are available at the alien8 website. I'm already planning my journey to Providence to see this show again.
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VOLCANO THE BEAR

They look like rock musicians, they smell like rock musicians, they even show up to gigs with a guitar, drums and organ - but they're not playing rock music. Their creative and charming blend of improvisational noise and organic soundcraft was what attracted Nurse With Wound's Steven Stapleton along with indie rock label Misra and UK indie Pickled Egg. This evening, the group was gathered in a basement in Allston, MA. The air was musty and damp but the show was most certainly enjoyable. The band begun with Nick bowing a guitar equipped with a wooden dowell, elevating a couple strings way off the fret-board. Other members Daniel and Aaron would make various sounds with their voices and switch off on drum duties. Over at the tapes was Lawrence, who stayed put for the set. The three soon began shifting around, with Nick going to the organ, Aaron playing a pennywhistle, Daniel playing clarinet and miniature accordion, all of them taking some duties with percussive sounds from various sources. Since the space was small and quite tight, the band was literally climbing over each other on various occasions. Perhaps it was a rehearsed part of the show, but I'm guessing much of their choreography is a combination of improvisation and order. The band's winding up their US tour currently and look for them in the future playing bigger venues next time.
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TYRO/MAN OR ASTRO-MAN?

So I was wondering what the heck Daniel Miller of Mute saw in Tyro. Their original incarnate, Atlanta-based Toenut released two albums on Mute before they lost their bassist. The core team, a brother and sister regrouped as Tyro and released "Audiocards" earlier this year. Tonight I saw exactly what I had hoped to see - an energetic group with low-fi electronics and blasting guitars charging an audience that's gathering for the headliners. If Add N to (X) added some guitars and knew how to write songs and kick ass, this would have been it I think. Everything was top notch from the drumming, guitar work and even rock and roll choreography. If Carl Sagan had a nightmare of The Muppets getting into a car accident with Dick Dale, Man or Astro-Man would be the result. You gotta have the uttmost respect for a group of alien surf-punks who open their show with fire and an OMD sample! Right on! To make the show even more electrifying, their set was accented by cosmic film projections, a dot-matrix typewriter and a Van Der Graaf generator on stage. I don't think they had fire permits for this kinda stuff.
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BROADCAST/THE SEA AND CAKE

While I like both bands, my opinions of each shifted after seeing this performance. Broadcast opened the show with a performance which sent shivers down my spine. I like the group but honestly, their music has never done a whole lot for me, but seeing them pull off slammin' live jams one after the other was incredible. I'm dying to go back and listen closer to their recorded sound, but at the end of their set, many friends present had agreed that Broadcast can surely pull it off amazingly well live. The Sea and Cake however lost a few points in my book tonight. I considered myself more a fan of TSAC than Broadcast but their show tonight was rather taskworthy to sit through. Sam Prekop's orchestrated guitarwork alongside Archer Prewitt is pleasant and endearing, John McEntire's drumming never falters, but I'm beginning to feel some times that all Sea and Cake songs sound too similar. The chords are almost exactly alike, the pace is almost identical, the vocals don't change much from song to song and they're all nicely compacted into an easily digestible 3-5 minutes. Together as a group, they're heading down the path of being written off as a one-trick pony. With so much talent gathered on one stage I'm almost embarassed that so little is being done to harness the power.
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Rachel's & Matmos

Recalling the recording "Full On Night," I was expecting an evening of collaborative work between both groups, as there were two performances scheduled tonight at the Brattle Theater. The Brattle is not a typical rock venue, it's a movie theater which specializes in cult, foreign and art films. For the last few years, the Rachel's have been packing the audiences into the Brattle as they play their own special blend of instrumental serenity as performed by acoustic and classical instruments. Tonight was completely unexpected. Matmos opened with their own set.

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7131 Hits

LOW/IDA

While I have ranted and raved before about each of these groups in concert, I felt the need to talk about this show, perhaps one of the best concerts I've ever seen here in Boston. On Monday night, both bands took to the stage in front of a fully packed movie theater, Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline and played to a smokeless attentive, well-behaved audience. The biggest beef I think any fan of these groups has is that their shows' crowds can often be too loud, interfering with each's own brand of quiet and intense music. Ida's set nearly brought me to tears, featuring many combinations of on stage musicians, including the core four (playing guitar, bass, piano, drums, percussion, and stringed instruments) accompanied with a full-time violinist and double-bass player. Low's set included many unrecognizable new songs from their forthcoming album. From what everybody heard on Monday night, it's going to be stunning. Additional surprises included their cover of the Beach Boys' "Little Surfer Girl" and a captivating lullaby for Alan and Mimi's new baby daughter. I was hardly surprised to see all the copies of that 7" single gone by the time I saw the merchandise table that night. Thanks to this concert, I have new hope for Boston venues, let's just hope the magic doesn't die.
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LAIKA

On a brief tour supporting their recent full-lenghter the closest this London-based band came to Boston was NYC. Although I bitched and complained when they toured last supporting Fiona Apple, I figure I spent more trying to get to NYC to see them this year. It was worth the trip however. Laika's rhythmic pop charm is undeniable - you can't play their music for anybody without them being instantly captivated. "Good Looking Blues" is one of my top albums of the year and to see them live once again was enjoyable. The band played tunes mostly from this album and their previous release, "Sounds of the Satellites," basically picking up from the last time I saw them (on tour supporting Tricky following their debut release "Silver Apples of the Moon.") Fronting the band is Chicago-area born Margaret Fiedler, whose vocal abilities have grown over the years to a range that goes from almost beat-poetry spoken word to beautiful lead melodies, blanketing the jagged rhythms beneath. Watching her play guitar is a treat as well, as her abilities match some of the best lead/rhythm guitarists of rock. [FYI, her guitar abilities earned her a spot in PJ Harvey's touring band, hitting the USA in a matter of weeks.] Surprises of the night included "Looking for the Jackalope," a tune which first appeared on the 'Off-Beat' compilation, later remixed by Jack Dangers into a stunning 9 1/2 minute piece.
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SAINT ETIENNE

Suffice it to say that Saint Etienne have never been bashful about their status as one of the original prime purveyors of retro bliss pop.
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DRUMS AND TUBA

What's most impressive about this band is their presentation.
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The Fall & Buzzcocks

Things weren't quite what I expected at this free festival in Manchester city centre. Went to see two bands from the so called 'punk' era who in many ways are total opposites.

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THE FOR CARNATION/DAVID GRUBBS

Tonight the For Carnation pulled it off - they recreated the sound that was captured on one of this year's best CDs on a stage.
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WEEN

I was unsure of what to expect from Ween having never seen them live before and aware of their fondness for various substances, especially while on tour.
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7338 Hits

HRVATSKI / µ-ZIQ

I worked, I napped, I showed up just in time to catch the set from Reckankreuzungsklankewerzeuge recording artist Hrvatski.
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8054 Hits

UI / LOCKGROOVE

The New York-based trio Ui made their way to Boston tonight bringing their own brand of jazz-influenced two-bass stab with noise bursts.
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Convergence IV

Convergence IV, a gathering of net.goths from all over the area. It's pretty cool bumping into people I know who don't live here. First night featured a live show by Masochistic Religion. They're a band to miss. Very loud and annoying boyz-with-guitarz band with the occasional use of a *coffin* as a stage prop. Sheesh.

Just saw Legacy of Rage, starring Brandon "The Crow" Lee from 1986. It's a pretty typical hong kong kung-fu/crime drama story, but it is kinda cool seeing him being used this way... The film style, dialogue, and action sequences are so different from how westerners do things, and the culture differences are very noticable. Brandon gets to kick ass as usual. The plot is a little far-fetched but that's not why people watch it, of course.

Biohunter, an anime from 1997, is an above-average anime in the genre of "demon possessed people who fight other demon possessed people who rape/kill/fondle with tentacles beautiful young women". Yah, it's derivative. And this particualr movie has very strong Incredible Hulk influences, but they also have a hand which walks around by itself a la Aadams Family, and some really well-done scenery and monster battle scenes. Oh well. Pass the crackers.

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