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MICHAEL GIRA, "UNTITLED (ACOUSTIC/SOLO CD)"

At the heart of much of Michael Gira's songs with SWANS and The Angelsof Light is the bare essence of Gira, simply the voice and guitar. Onthis Young God Records web site exclusive, that's about all you get.Recorded alone at home, often as they were written, the 13 songs arenew save for 2 SWANS reworkings ("Love Will Save You", "Remember WhoYou Are"), a fully orchestrated studio leftover from the first Angel'salbum sessions ("God's Servant", previously released on the "PraiseYour Name" 7") and a live performance at Tonic NYC ("Irish Queen").Gira unabashedly intones to the basic, often quiet, accompaniment ofhis acoustic guitar plucks and strums. The sound is, somewhatsurprisingly, full, rich and complete. But then again, it's not asurprise if you've ever heard or seen Gira perform solo as I have, hisemotional involvement with each song transcending the need forinstrumental adornment. Simple and simply perfect. Lyrically Gira drawsupon many of his trademark subjects: love, longing, loss, sex, betrayaland bitterness, as well as the influence of artists and authors(Madison Smartt Bell, Paul Theraux). The disc is signed and comes in aheavy vinyl folder with lyric sheet and self portrait cover assembledby Gira for $17. Gira will headline the opening night of the NeurotSound Series: Beyond The Pale August 16th in San Francisco and anAngels of Light tour will likely take place in September.

 

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4405 Hits

VERT, "MOREMOOSEICFORME"

No, your stereo speakers did not just get thrown into a pool of water.Your CD-player is not being soaked in a pit of acid. You're justlistening to Vert, the newest to join the gang on Mouse On Mars' Germanlabel, Sonig. This four-song EP, available exclusively on vinyl, pushesthe envelope of far-out space-rhythms in a manner similar to MoM'sstyle circa Niun Niggung to the point where it sounds as if they mayhave borrowed each others' sample bag. Aside from the overlap in sound,it is truly enjoyable in that there is not much else that can only bedescribed zany dance dub or country-western Atari-esque samba music.The reverb is way up, the grooves are kickin with an extra pep, and yetthere is a nice primitive feel to this music that is so completelydrenched in digital. They recently toured with Mouse on Mars andTortoise, so if you for some reason missed that show and it seems thatmelting beebop is your cup of tea, I'd recommend this. What is Vert?

 

4077 Hits

lightning bolt, "ride the skies"

Following in a long, long line of angry young men who like to bang onthings, Lightning Bolt take noise-rock into new territory. Where theBoredoms look back to Sonic Youth and Television, Lightning Bolt havetaken on Kraut Rock and No Wave in their sound. The band, a duo, ismade up of drummer/vocalist Brian Chippendale and bassist Brian Gibson.On "Ride the Skies," their sophomore effort, they have attempted forthe first time to capture the powerful essence of their live sound,adding much improvisation and ending several songs with wild walls ofsound. "Forcefield" opens the album with a four-minute frenzy ofdistortion and drum fills. The only somewhat intelligible vocals on thealbum appear on "13 Monsters," which opens with a wild tribal rhythmthat leads into bass arpeggio by Gibson that sounds like it would be athome on the first Suicide album. With "The Faire Folk," the band showstheir softer side by combining a Michael Rother-influenced disco groovewith a light bass harmony and hummed vocals. The highlight of thealbum, though, is "Wee Ones Parade" (which should be titled "DuelingDolphins") which opens with a short introduction featuring Gibsonplaying against.. himself, but shortly breaks into the most aggressivepiece of music on the record. As a whole, the album is very cohesiveand manages to maintain a live feel without losing sound quality. Fansof Ruins and Crash Worship alike should check this one out.

 

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4082 Hits

The Pilot Ships, "The Limits of Painting and Poetry"

To anyone who wants to give Radiohead's "Amnesiac" the prize for mostdisparate, disconnected release of the century: "The Limits of Paintingand Poetry" has it by a longshot. This, the second release by The PilotShips, follows their brilliant 1997 debut album. It's familiarterritory for the Ships, as nothing here is really very shocking from asonic palette perspective. What's interesting is the variation of songstructure and instrumentation. It's as though, at times, the Shipscannot decide what kind of music they want to make. Piano starts thesong, but then it's interrupted by processed and delayed guitar. Andwhat is that buzzing, exactly? "The Limits..." is an amazing release,however, as each song, as disconnected as it is from every other on theCD, is a full and complete listening experience. For the most part it'scinematic in tone -- this release could easily be the soundtrack to afine movie about the dissolution of human relationships or the decay ofthe land around us -- and the combination of unrelated sounds is a joyto minnow through and pick apart. Listening to this release onheadphones is a special treat. A song like "Knotted," for instance, hasso many sounds present that when one appears, randomly, and is thennever heard again, you have to rewind the track and make sure it wasn'ta noise outside your window or in your room. Then the static fadesdirectly in to "Sides," the next track, but it's changed, somehow. Afascinating listen, and no one who hears it can honestly justify whyit's taken this long to release.

 

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4964 Hits

KATE MOSH, "DYNAMO"

I'm awake already! Kate Mosh is a new alias for the twenty somethingGerman producer best known as Panacea. "Dynamo" is the debut releasefrom Killer Pimp, one of two new labels (the other being Turbo Pimp)under the Brainwashed umbrella. K-Pimp's motto states "There is no suchthing as love, only varying levels of obsession". Kate Mosh is obsessedwith overdrive. Most everything is intentionally in the red: synths,samples and beats for over 73 minutes of dance floor hardcore. Apounding thud is the rapid heartbeat of most tracks as layers ofelectronics blister and peel on the surface. Part 1 of "Crawford'sTheme" drops the beat for ambient noise while part 2 dabbles in drum 'nbass. "The Fire This Time" injects some explosive hip hop attitude. Theaptly titled "Manic" dances with synth notes and an onslaught ofrhythm. And for "Across the Universe" (no, not a Beatles cover as faras I can tell), "Kate Mosh", "Genesis", "Solar Death" and the titletrack, think dramatic rave techno dipped in white noise. Alec Empirewishes he was having this much fun. Next from Killer Pimp is a fulllength CD version of Noise Girl's "Discopathology"

 

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4741 Hits

MOUSE ON MARS/VERT/HRVATSKI

I hesitated to write this review last week since the US tour was overby the time the issue appeared, but it must be said that the groupsounded incredible this time around. Local gig whore, Hrvatskiintroduced the night with a usual schtick coupled with minormodifications. Keith Fullerton Whitman gets better nearly every time Isee him but tonight he decided to pick up the punchiness over the lasttime (which was obviously subdued while sharing the bill withLabradford and Pan American). Vert was next up and while his albumshave usually passed through the ears pleasantly, his live set made morestatements about his background as a pianist and performer. MOM's setbegan with a loud punch — a guitar, drum and bass jam with loads ofdistortion — the group wanted to basically get your attention and letyou know this is going to be a seriously fun show. What followed wasthe group continuing as a trio, most commonly configured by bass,keyboards and live drums. For nearly two hours, the group bombardedthrough a hand-selected assortment of their most fun, upbeat and bouncytracks — and it never got stale!
4187 Hits

C93/NWW, "Bright yellow moon/purtle"

Bright Yellow Moon is the latest in a series of eschatological meditations from Current 93, with the inimitably hallucinogenic assistance of fellow traveler Nurse With Wound. Tibet's musical trajectory has taken him in a sort of closing spiral from the universal apocalypse of "Nature Unveiled" & "The Seven Seals" towards ever more personal losses, and artistry which is correspondingly more powerful and emotionally complex.

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4435 Hits

tomas jirku, "immaterial"

Jirku's third full-lenth release is the second for Alien8's newSubsctractif label. Much like Tied and Tickled Trio [see below], Jirkuhas chosen this round to focus on less songs, developing them more.(Thank you! In the end, it's quality, not quantity that matters.)Immaterial is four 10+ minute songs, with a strong laptop glitcheryfoundation, completed with a healthy amount of field recordings and dubeffects. Track one, "Meson," is the score to a late night robbery scenein a dark, frightening future, while track two, "Gluon," could easilyunderline a night on the operating table drifting between consciousnessand unconsciousness. "Baryon," track three is an explicitlypornographic seduction from a space alien and track four, "Pion," Icleaned out the tub basin and hung a new shower curtain to. All fourtracks take their patient time to develop and skillfully ease into thenext, while the final ends with a calm rain storm which subliminallyand skillfully morphs into a seemingly endless stream of white noise.Jirku is young still, but he is showing a much more mature approach tocomposition and structure. 60 second samples hardly do this discjustice.

 

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4147 Hits

Fennesz, "Endless Summer"

This album is the auditory equivilent to a free vacation or perhaps thesoundtrack to the afterglow of an exceptionally good lay. The 3rdfull-length from Laptop wiz-boy Fennesz finds him taking time out ofhis busy schedule of collaborations and multimedia orchestrations tofinally bring us a follow-up to "Hotel Paral.lel". Consisting of amagical assortment of clicks, heavily processed guitar strummings, andPita-esque distorted strings, it is surprisingly upbeat compared tomost of the Mego camp. It's very detailed, as you would expect fromFennesz, but also contains many freeform/pseudorandom evolvingelements, digitally tweaked for maximum ecstasy. Simple melodiesreverberate and repeat while detached particles of sound swirl and buzzin a fog around them creating dense, yet listenable structures.
In creating, deconstructing and re-assembling his music, Fenneszshowcases different styles throughout the CD: from the guitar-filledtitle track with several movements, the crackling static-filled stringson the verge of resonance in "happy audio", to melodic Oval-esque"skipping CD" (tm) stylings of "before I leave". Unfortunately, somemight find these processing methods slightly gimmicky or an overuse ofDSP-noodling. However, if one can accept the minimal, competentlytweaked nature of the songs, it is easy to see that they are used toshowcase genuine emotion and makes Fennesz's "difficult third album"not seem so difficult after all - he makes it look easy.
Perhaps suffering from recently being prematurely hyped in the press asbeing "classic", "Endless Summer" is neverless a startlingly good albumboth on its own or placed next to releases of all his laptopcontemporaries; suffice to say that it's brilliant music for beginningyour day or ending it, regardless of season.

 

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4023 Hits

Slicker, "the latest"

The Latest from John Hughes III under the Slicker incarnate is anothermilestone for him, with zesty electronics accompanied by thick low-endgrooves, continuously evolving songs and sprinklings of organic Chicagopost-jazz instrumentality. There's never a dull second over the courseof 51 minutes, as the sources, programs, tempos and feel varies fromtrack to track. From punchy techno "jams" to low-cool dub grooves,Hughes is a master at the mix. Additional contributors on the discinclude pianist/saxophonist Christopher Case, vibe player Rick Embach,drummer Kevin Duneman and a mysterious guest samplist named Mat Mos.Hmmmm,... Somebody's got a lot of great friends! =) Hughes hasadmirably embraced some of the best aspects of the 'Scarlet Diva'triumph without alienating the sound for which Slicker is known. Thingswill get confusing when the follow-up gets released as kids will stillbe asking for "The Latest" in the shops. Great f'n album, Hughes, sillytitle!

 

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3933 Hits

Fontanelle, "F"

After last year's stunning self-titled debut, Fontanelle return in 2001with this EP of songs they've recorded over the last three years. Aninteresting line-up featuring three keyboards, two guitarists and twodrummers, Fontanelle create soundscapes that never annoy and alwayschallenge the listener. The mixture of live drums with electronicinstruments is not new sonic territory, but listen to the samples andyou'll see that Fontanelle does it like no other band. Sounds arewarped, wah-wahed out, meticulously planned and timed, and ingeniouslyexecuted. Or are they? On this release, we're told that this timeFontanelle is showing off their more improvisational side. The resultsare similar to the songs on the first release, as the music was createdat the same time as the debut, for all intents and purposes. However,the debut seems more spacey in nature next to these songs, with thekeyboards being reduced to background orchestral fodder on some tracks.On "F," they're more in the foreground on every song, making theireerie impression felt. The songs are also shorter than those on thedebut, which helps, as they do not grow as monotonous as some on thedebut got after two or three listens. "F" stands up well even afterfive or six, and it leaves you wanting more. If this is truly animprovisation-based release, it bodes well for the next Fontanellefull-length. The band seems to be finding that happy medium between thekeyboards and guitars on "F," and as a listener, you feel this releasesucceeding in ways "Fontanelle" didn't, particularly where the linesbetween the two blur. Stronger melodies emerge, too, making this andexcellent release well worth listening to, for where Fontanelle are,and where you know they're going.

 

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3696 Hits

hrvatski (remixed), "RKK-13"

The long-awaited remix CD follow-up to 1998's seminal "Attention: Cats"LP on Reckankreuzungsklankewerkzeuge has more big names than one wouldthink possible or necessary to stuff on a single CD: Cex, Fennesz,Thurston Moore, Pita, Pimmon, Push Button Objects, Kid606, FarmersManual, and many other lesser-knowns, with even more promised to be onthe upcoming LP release (consisting of, it appears, different tracksfrom the CD).
As to be expected from a compilation of 35 artists with each trackclocking in at around the 2 minute mark, it has a widely variedtopograhy. The premise of a multitude of short, hard-hitting trackkeeps in tune with the original "Attention: Cats", which presented tothe listener a large number of brief, distorted, often humorousnoise/drum&bass songs attributed to a flurry of unknown aliases,all ultimately traceable to one Keith Whitman, aka Hrvatski and head ofReckankreuzungsklankewerkzeuge.
Although the sheer track variety keeps pigeonholing the style of therelease impossible, the remixes are roughly split between minimalglitch/laptop, "IDM", and loud, distorted drum & bass stylings,similar in feel to the "Kid606 and Friends Vol. 1" CD on Tigerbeat6 ofrecent memory. There are some flat-out duds, namely Thurston Moore'sdistracting 3 1/2 minute "remix" (longest track on the CD) which seemsto find the rockstar tuning a radio while fiddling with the outputjack. Such foolery aside, almost all the remixes have enough bite,composition, and originality to hold their own. Even taken as a whole,the CD is well-mixed and flows better than one might guess given thatthe number and diversity of songs. Wicked listening for the ADD-blessedteenager in you.

 

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4213 Hits

tor lundvall, "the mist"

It's four a.m. and I haven't slept and have no desire to. My moonshadow accompanies me as I wander through a snow-covered forest. My footsteps leave a muffled reminder that I am still alive. I am not lost but have no idea where I am. Time and Space have given up their eternal battle for dimensional supremacy and have abandoned me. I eventually find my way to cabin that appears to be vacant so I take a respite from my journey and enter. The interior is dark with only a bed and a table, however on the table is a CD by Tor Lundvall entitled The Mist - it has a fascinating cover featuring subtle images of a winter landscape. I put the CD on my walkman and lie down to rest - the music envelops me in a dark desolate mindscape that is hauntingly benign radiating a warm emotional state. I decide to while a way some time by writing about the songs in my journal - here are my observations.

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5724 Hits

ruby, "short-staffed at the gene pool"/"altered & proud"

You may recall the English male/female duo Ruby from a minor radio hitabout five years ago with "Tiny Meat." The duo consists of LesleyRankine, former singer for Silverfish, and Mark Walk of Pigface, andRuby is the name of each of their grandmother. The duo's latest fulllength is out now through Thirsty Ear with guest production on spotsfrom Christian Vogel, William Rieflin and Mira Calix. The disc isaccompanied by a separate release, 'Altered & Proud', withtweakings from Dot Allison, Kid 606, Schneider TM, Console, Max Tundraand others. While Ruby was a viable venture for Sony Music five yearsback, no major label thinks they can risk it with something that won'teven break commercial alternative radio any more. Their sound is hardlystale however, and would be warmly welcomed by similar aggressiveattitude-heavy beat-oriented female-sung outfits like Lamb, Curve,Laika, classic Scala or even Moloko. The sounds are great, theproduction's wonderful with a healthy dose of guitars, organic andelectronic percussion, trumpets and various synthetic lead equipment,but the writing could use a little more originality and lessrepetition. The remixes on the other hand would please people notnecessarily looking for a pop record, but some great sounds put throughthe wringer and dragged back again, kicking and screaming.

 

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3959 Hits

HiM, "New Features"

There is music for the masses, music for the soul, music for the heart,and those hungry of it, and even music for the malls -- or is that justMuzac? HiM is music for musicians, and "New Features" is an impressivedisplay of the talent this group encompasses. The group is tight,driving, sinewy, grooved-out and this time they venture further intotheir exploration of dub, now with an even greater Latin flavor. HiMmake music that demands movement. If you aren't dancing to this record,you're missing the point. This, their fifth release, really showcaseshow incredible the communication is in this band, and exactly how muchpotential lies in wait, ready to be unleashed in a live setting. Live,I'm sure, these songs sound even better with the improvisational bentthey receive, but on record they're just as precious. I especiallyliked how, from even the first track, each musician gets their time inthe sun. No one instrument is a stand-out. And where effects likedelays, beeps, and artificial beats could detract from the quality ofthe playing, HiM use them brilliantly here, using the less is moreprincipal to showcase the playing rather than muddying it. My only realcomplaint would be that several songs seem reminiscent of Beastie Boysinstrumentals in style and feel. But on a CD that features severaltracks over the ten minute mark, including the eighteen-minute opus "InTransition," one doesn't even find the need to complain about songlength. Right when you feel like the music should shift in a newdirection, it does, right on cue. It's all about different flavors on"New Features," and in the hands of less skilled musicians, it could gohorribly wrong. In the hands of HiM, it sounds like these "NewFeatures" have been there all along: you just haven't been listening.

 

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4030 Hits

keiji haino, "abandon all words at a stroke"

For those who take their improvisational noiscore seriously, a 2xCD setfrom minimalistic screechmonger Keiji Haino is now available. Each CDis a one-track 45+ minute piece for one source and voice. Fans of earlyNurse With Wound would find the listenings both challenging andenjoyable as very little detail is paid to composition, but a delicateattention is paid to sonority of the sources. Ideal for a cande-litseance, disc one, "Hurdy Gurdy" is as dark as the CD jacket, and issimply creepy played out drones on a hurdy gurdy with the creepieroccasional vocals. Disc two, "Electronic Percussion" is built around awave drum scratches and squealing electronics, also accompanied by theoccasional distorted vocal regurgitations. Disc two would perfectlyscore the next time you're stuck in a cold, dark, smelly sewer, coveredin sludge, desperately trying to get out. I never understood where thelight's supposed to come from during those scenes in the movies.Anyhow, purists would love the concept but I personally think 45minutes on each disc is a bit lengthy. Thankfully they're not stretchedto 80 minutes on each disc.

 

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4748 Hits

tied + tickled trio, "electric avenue tapes"

This group, who isn't a trio and released their second full-lengther onDrag City in the USA last year is allegedly a side project of popstersThe Notwist. I say alleged since they've been releasing more asT&TT than as The Notwist lately. Anyhow this album does it right -with five well-developed tracks, totalling about 43 minutes. The musicis entirely instrumental, jazzy-flavored with horn instruments andpiano sounds, but beat oriented with hints of glitch and dub and muchmore complete than last year's album or the remixes which were out latelast year from Morr in Germany. I was rather cold to the disc when Ifirst got it, but it has grown to become my favorite release from thiscrew, mellow while creatively involved, beat happy and musicallyplayful enough with a load of TLC and strong efforts focused on only asmall amount of top-notch tunes.

 

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4393 Hits

slag boom van loon, "so soon"

The original tracks were by µ-Ziq's Mike Paradinas and Speedy J'sJoachim Papp, the disc here is remixes from Coil, Boards of Canada,Matmos, Four Tet, µ-Ziq, Tiper, Horse Opera, and Pole. The good thingis that if you love these bands, you won't be let down. All the remixespretty much sound like the group doing the remix. Fout Tet's got abeefy and beaty contribution, Boards of Canada's bookends are sereneand liquid, and the highlight is most certainly the Coil mix whichnearly approaches 10 minutes, with scraping sounds, a chilling marimbaand orchestral loop, and thunderous low rumblings. What's the point ofreleasing "remix" albums under your own name? It should just beconsidered a various-artists compilation but there's legalramifications surrounding how you credit those whose fingers have beenin the mix. It's great, it's dark, it's light. You are a fan of many ofthese bands so you might as well get it.

 

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4425 Hits

cubismo grafico, "tout!"

Cubismo Grafico is a Japanese outfit doing lounge music with loads ofFrench vocals. Released in 1999, this disc is warm album to listenwhile driving around slowly through the city on a hot day with thewindows rolled down. Pretty vocals, drum machines playing sambas,Brazilian-esque acoustic guitars, chimes of vibes or marimbas make itdreamy and cheery. Yippee. I feel like that sloth getting his groovething on from the old Far Side comic. I don't know what it is aboutJapanese lounge fans but there's a pretty girl on the front, loads offemale vocals but only a picture of a Japenese guy on the inside.Fantastic Plastic what? Anyhow it's far better than this year's(not-so) Fantastic Plastic release and you don't own it. Get it andbring it to the beach with you.

 

4166 Hits

sukia, "Contacto Espacial Con El Tercer Sexo"

Fucked-up electronic modern exotica, with odd samples, sampled andelectronic drums, random twitters, aircraft sounds, off-key noises andvocals, bizarre collage artwork, and a contribution with the DustBrothers. It's got sitars mixed with 60s-era spy music sounding stuff,crossed with vocal samples about food or sado-masochism. This is easilywhat Add N to (X) would be sound like if they were as cool as theypretend to be. It was released in 1996 by the Dust Bros' Nickel Baglabel out of Los Angeles and Mo Wax in the UK. I found it used andpicked it up on a recommendation. It's rather weird in parts but atevery point, it's quite creative and incredibly enjoyable. Half ofSukia is two guys named Craig and Ross, now known as DJ Me DJ You withrecords on Emperor Norton. The album's titled was inspired by a Mexicancomic book about a lesbian vampire and her well-hung cohort, GarySupermacho. Make sense now?

 

5496 Hits