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Radio Birdman, "The Essential (1974-1978)"

I had never heard of Radio Birdman before hearing this CD. In fact,before I read the liner notes, brilliantly written by David Fricke ofRolling Stone fame, I thought that Radio Birdman might be a new bandtrying to create that hype machine around them by getting a whole bunchof people to say "No, they were contemporaries of the Ramones and theStooges. Yeah!" It all had a very Spinal Tap backstory to it. Then Iput on the CD. All I can say is it ate my words and thoughts right up.David Fricke says it beautifully in the notes: there hasn't been since,and there probably never will be, another band like Radio Birdman. Soit's good that Sub Pop is releasing this "Essential" collection, mostof which hasn't been available in the United States in 23 years. Theirfirst EP, "Burn My Eye" is included in its entirety, plus songs offboth their studio albums, and a few live tracks to give the listener anidea of what this band could pump out live, as many in America nevergot a chance to see that. From the opening notes of "Aloha Steve &Danno," which follow the sounds of the waves flowing in to shore, youknow you're in for a treat. This is almost surf punk: highly energetic,with snaky guitar lines and driving drum beats, and forceful,commanding vocals. It's all incredibly ahead of its time, from the teenrevolution cries of "New Race" to the sheer majestic glory of "DescentInto The Maelstrom." It's a shame they didn't release more. It's also ashame I've never heard of Radio Birdman. The time is now to spread theword, as Radio Birdman deserve their rightful place in the annals ofRock history.

 

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4655 Hits

MARTYN BATES, "DANCE OF HOURS"

Martyn Bates is a founding member of the eclectic '80s duo Eyeless inGaza and a prolific collaborator and solo artist. "Dance of Hours" is a27 minute mini album that is essentially a continuation of his solowork "Letters Written" begun in 1982. Bates plays most everything here:piano, organ, bass and electric Hawaiian guitar plus additional vocalson 2 songs by Elizabeth S. and co-production by former Gaza partnerPeter Becker. But, most importantly, is the voice. To say that Bates'voice is heavenly is still an understatement. It is undeniably thefocal point of these richly melodic, poetic songs. In fact, the moreminimal the musical accompaniment, the better. "Poems Pennyeach" and"Alone Reprise" (which are pretty much the same James Joyce piece, bothless than a minute apiece) and "The Heart Song" showcase only Bates'golden throat within a reverberated cloud or intermittent backgroundvocalizations. The rest effectively couple the voice with flickers ofnotes and drone. Though this album is brief it's still a very welcomeaddition to Bates' catalog. And the insert thoughtfully contains all ofthe lyrics, pure poetry in and of itself.

 

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6942 Hits

Synapscape, "Positive Pop"

The latest offering by seminal Ant-Zen "powernoise" favoritesSynapscape is an interesting one. Although "Positive Pop" is moretechnoid than anything released recently on Ant-Zen save for PAL's lastRebirth-rife album, it manages to sound quite fresh and interestingwithin the constraints of the genre. The first track, "Ammunition," isa test of your patience, however - atmospherics accompanied by apiercing frequency which slowly raises makes for an interestingintroduction. The track that follows, "Thirsteater," is classicSynapscape, while "Smogue" is a beatless piece with a fewhigh-frequency injections like the first track. "Dubforce" is aptlynamed, using reverb and a slower tempo to create a very interesting,dub-like feel for a Synapscape track. Reminds me of Nine Inch Nails.The album continues as expected, not varying much from Synapscape'stried-and-true (or not?) formula. If you acquired the box set, you'rein for a very special treat - three (yes, three!) ten inch slabs ofvinyl accompany the album, and the remixes and extra tracks featured onthese records are (for the most part) golden. Disc one is newSynapscape tracks, whose standout is "Bizarre Vinyl Junky," with itsskittery, up-tempo beats. Discs two and three are remixes, and here arewhere things get interesting. The remixers are varied, and whileseveral of the remixes are formulaic and predictable (Converter, Asche,Somatix), some of the results are downright surprising: Savak'sreconstruction of "Thirsteater" begins with melodic synths straight outof your favorite IDM track. Hell-G's "Notorious" is a dancefloorbreakbeat track reminiscent of good-ol' Position Chrome, and ImminentStarvation's remix borders on glitch-techno, with miniscule hypnoticbeats ripped right from Panasonic. Yes, the box set is most definitelyworth your money. Overall, not a bad album, but "Positive Pop" onlyreinforces Ant-Zen's latest direction: to be the next "stepping stone"for those getting tired of EBM and looking for something just a tad bitless friendly.

 

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4880 Hits

27, "Songs From The Edge Of The Wing"

There are times, when listening to a particular release by a particularband, you feel very sorry for the musicians. Not because they aren'tplaying their music well, mind you. The music is luscious, hypnoticeven, and they play it with fervor, energy. But it seems no matter howhard they try, they are a vessel for the voice that sings over them.Luckily, 27 doesn't really have that problem. The music is compellingenough to keep you there before the voice comes in, and then itimproves. Sparsely arranged, and melodically playful despite a slowertempo on the majority of the songs, "Songs From The Edge Of The Wing"is an excellent first release from 27, defining in its beauty. Thesesongs are captivating, even without Maria Christopher's sensual vocallines, but her presence is what takes 27 to the next level. She weavesin and out of the songs with the skill of a siren, singing about thetroubles and trappings of human relationships. And the variation ofstyles not only speaks well for future releases by 27, but also gives ahint of their influences and pasts. With ex-members of Dirt Merchantsand Spore present, one might not be expecting music of this subtlety.Loud moments of guitars are present, but they are few and far between.Mostly, these songs are lush, languid, the soundtrack to a dream youwait every night to have. The only seemingly awkward moment (no, theNeil Young cover of "Danger Bird" is brilliantly executed, thank you)is the latin-flavored "Lone Mariachi," where Christopher's vocals areintermingled with spoken word by someone else, who sounds frighteninglylike Mark Sandman of Morphine in areas. What do you expect from a bandfrom Boston, though? A fine release, and I wait for more...

 

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3940 Hits

orchestral manoeuvres, "navigation: the omd b-sides"

While CD singles can be interpreted as collectable, tradable fun littlethings, they arguably killed the art of the b-side in the late 1980s.After much pressure, Virgin finally honors OMD with a collection oftracks from the other side of the hits. With two-sided singles, groupsoften went wild since their albums were scrutinized by the press undera microscope and their singles had to grab enough public attention tosell. Some of OMD's finer moments can be heard within the earliergrooves, now collected for the first time on compact digital audio. I'mthrilled mainly because I had all of these songs on crummy-qualityvinyl, and now can listen to a beautifully restored mastering job.Thankfully for people who were never impressed by the watery pop phasesof OMD, this comp is heavy on the early classics. Vocal songs like"Sacred Heart" and "I Betray My Friends" showcase an undeniable masteryof songcraft, while instrumentals like "66 & Fading" and theuber-anthemic "Wheels of the Universe" are emotionally chargedmasterpieces, years ahead of their time. The group pays tribute toinfluencors Velvet Underground with their cover of "Waiting for theMan" and Neu! (in title alone as far as I can hear) with "4-Neu" whilethe inclusion of early alternate versions of "Almost" from the firstalbum and "The Romance of the Telescope" from Dazzle Ships are certainto please the completist fans. If you avoid the expensive chainretailers by buying direct from omd.uk.com,you'll get an autographed booklet and additional booklet of moreextensive liner notes. My only beef with this and the web site is theincomprehensive 'Brit-centric' qualities of each, which ignore the factmost people only know OMD by "If You Leave" outside of their tinylittle island, omitting it from the booklet discography.

 

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4114 Hits

THE YOUNG GODS

After taking several years off from the road - except for the occasional performance in their home country of Switzerland, or nearby France - The Young Gods returned to European stages to do a short tour. I went to see them on their stop in Hamburg.
The concert was poorly promoted, the only poster announcing the show was put up in front of the venue while we were waiting to be let in. Regardless of that, quite a few people showed up, I would say about 150 to 200 give or take a few. This was a good amount of people for the size of the venue, it wasn't too crowded, but neither too empty.
When listening to The Young Gods' music, they may at first sound like your typical Industro-Metal band, with distorted guitars and everything. The bigger is the surprise when you see them live, and the only guitar used on stage is an acoustic one used to generate some feedback. Everything else is sampled and put to good use by keyboard player Al Comet. Add a drummer and singer Franz Treichler with his irresistible french accent, and you end up with The Young Gods.
I kind of pity the people who live next to or above the venue, the Westwerk. The amount of volume and noise The Young Gods put up on stage for the next 90 minutes was just insane. One of the loudest concerts I've ever been to. You wouldn't think that three guys can pull off noise like that and enjoy it. Apparently they do, as you could see that they were having an excellent time up there on stage.
During the show, the emphasis was on their current release "Second Nature". They played most of the songs from that album, mixed with some old classics. The slower songs like "In The Otherland" or "Laisser Couler" definitely benefited from the intimacy of the small venue. I can't imagine these songs would come across that well when being played in a big concert hall. Highlights of the concert were "Skinflowers", the stomping "Astronomic" and "Kissing The Sun". The performance was well received by the audience, so the band had to come back on stage twice before the lights finally went on. The show ended with one of the Kurt Weill cover tunes they do so well, which put a nice end to a fantastic show. Make sure you catch them live if they ever play a show near you.
6597 Hits

Bonnie Billy, "More Revery"

Will Oldham is an odd fellow, and a bit of an overrated one, if you ask me. He's the musical equivalent of Miramax: releases a bunch of product, hopes that one connects with an audience, but if it doesn't, so be it. At least Oldham has some artistic integrity, though, as he's displayed in the past. And you'd know it from "More Revery."

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4819 Hits

Chicago Underground Quartet

This self titled release is the first official Chicago Underground as a quartet, although Tortoise/Isotope 217 guitarist Jeff Parker has appeared on previous trio discs including last year's 'Flamethrower' as the fourth member within what was described as shifting trios within the quartet.

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3822 Hits

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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4204 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?

 

3867 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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3869 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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4749 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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4523 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!
3931 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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4232 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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3960 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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3820 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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3664 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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3480 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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4009 Hits