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marquis de tren and bonnie "prince" billy, "Get On Jolly"

The title of this collaboration between Will Oldham (Bonnie Billy,Palace) and Mick Turner (Marquis De Tren, Dirty Three) is something ofa misnomer: its twenty-odd minutes of dark and achey love songs neverreach the rolling twang of other Oldham or the thundering gallop ofsome Dirty Three. Not much gettin' on or jolliness here. Instead, thealbum reverberates with sonorous, swelling sprinklings of tremblingguitar, organ, and Oldham's plaintitive vocals, all steeped incountry-flavored ambience. Reverb is used liberally and to stunningeffect, drawing out the subtley shifting layers of instrumentation andfilling out the simplicity of their arrangement. Percussion (mostlycymbals) is only used on one track, and sparingly. Lyrically, as wellas musically, 'Get on Jolly' rouses the pangs in the bones and ache inthe chest of any dramatic and dreary rainy day. Pain and desireinspired by unobtainable or unexplainable beauty, loves absent ormisplaced, slowness and longing — all are significant themes on thisdisc. Despite (or maybe because of) the simplicity of Oldham's lyrics,a slightly odd turn of phrase deals a stunning blow. In "2/15" Oldhamsings praises of a woman who seems out of his reach: "hidden in theheart of things you make flowers into edible things" and "in the armsof your old charms, let me forever bask / or is that too much to ask"are two of the most striking and beautiful lines. My only complaint forthis impressive, intricate EP is: too short!

 

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4804 Hits

neotropic, "la prochaine fois"

London-based electronic artist Riz Maslen has taken on a new journeywith the brilliant new Neotropic package. 'La Prochaine Fois' [the nexttime] might not officially be a concept album but is sure is conceptualin nature. The disc is an adventure, a journey further away from thestereotypical post-hop sounds of Ninja Tune and further away from herbeefy low-end and repetitious sounds of yesteryear. One thing whichremains contant however is her usage of external sound sources andminimalistic exploitation of music samples. I too had a journey thispast week, taking her music along with me while I biked a long bikepath, tuning out the external world and becoming more intimatelyacquainted with the music disc. My first reaction is the shock to allthe beautiful guitar and other stringed instruments coloring the earlyportion of the disc. Included in the mix are various old world-soundinginstruments, accordion, flute and naked drum kits. Riz also decided todelicately loop vocal samples from people like Jarboe [hey, James Izzois even credited!] and Low, while employing guest musicians on nearlyall of the other tracks. At times, the dynamic yet peaceful feel can besomewhat dub-like while other points could come fairly close toclassical arrangements. In an almost complete contrast, the latterportion of the disc [sans the rap closer] is a rather anthemicsoundtrack to a post-modern hippie's nightmare. On the whole, the musicis very rich in sound, intricately woven together without drowning thelistener with too many sources at one point. For those whose words getswallowed up at the sound of the disc or unable to make a physicaljourney using this as a soundtrack, a companion is included for us towatch! Disc 2 is a video collage of Riz's various travels. The visualsare nothing daring or explosive but it gracefully compliments the musicwell.

 

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4096 Hits

Michael O'Shea

One day in London town Gilbert and Lewis of Wire followed their ears tothe source of an incredible noise like none they'd ever heard before.The buzz in their ears led them to a busker wearing high heels,stockings, white skirt, blazer and turban.
The late Michael O'Shea was a free spirited instrument inventor andmusician who eschewed the trappings of fame and fortune to live hislife day by day as he pleased. He found an old wooden box and made ithis friend... With a few hammerings Mo Cara (Gaelic: My Friend) wasborn, a new instrument based on a hybrid of hammered dulcimer, sitarand an Algerian instrument he'd played on his travels, the Zelochord.Mo Cara had seventeen main strings underpinned by six more stringswhich gave it a profound resonance. Michael's playing was as muchinfluenced by his interest in tabla rhythms and time spent learning thesitar whilst recovering from illness as his early infatuation withIrish folk stalwarts the Chieftans. His compositions are transcendentand evocative of magic and mystery. Gilbert and Lewis recorded thealbum on a day when Michael's horoscope was propitious and everyone inthe studio was moved to tears by the album opener 'No Journey's End'.This became the second non-Dome release on the Dome label, and now withsix additional tracks is the twelfth and (almost) final WMO release andis a wonderful ending for the Wire related reissue / rarity label.

 

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5185 Hits

jet black crayon, "low frequency speaker test"

I walked in to see Tortoise at the Fillmore, unaware who the openingact was, as I had failed to do my research. I was late, and in a rushto see if I could find a great vantage point to observe the evening'sentertainment. Suddenly, I was taken by the sounds emanating from thestage. The opening act had been playing for 20 minutes or so, and I hadmissed most of it. A deep bass groove was backed by competent,hard-hitting drumming, both of which were accompanied by occasionaltruntable flourishes. I rushed to the nearest Fillmore employee, andasked who this amazing act was. "jet black crayon," he replied, and mysecond question should say it all: "Where's the merchandise counter?"The only release jet black crayon currently have available, "lowfrequency speaker test" is an impressive EP from a band with a trulyoriginal sound. Two basses, drums, and a turntable make beautifulmusic, as the EP really gets underway on track 2, "tonic water," thetrack I heard that night at the Fillmore that made me want to find outwho this band was. From the deep bass grooves on that track to thelatin style beat and instructional samples of "the tree," jet blackcrayon impress and excel, creating a mood with each soundscape that isdistinct and exciting. Principle members are Gadget behind theturntables, bassist Tommy Guerrero, who has several solo albumsincluding one with Gadget, slide bassist Monte Vallier, and drummer TimDegaugh on skins real and electronic. Rumor has it they are currentlyrecording their debut album, due later this year. Get in on the groundfloor. Grab this EP, released last year, and prepare to be grooved.

 

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4317 Hits

RAFAEL TORAL, "Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance"

Rafael Toral is a guitarist who lives at the end of the world... Well,Portugal to be exact. His ten beautiful solo guitar dronescapes mightecho influences such as Sonic Youth, Jim O'Rourke, Eno and theminimalist composers but he gives his instrument a unique voice. Reallyhe's up there alongside Robert Hampson and Christian Fennesz when itcomes to new approaches to coaxing sublime sonic textures from thatversatile six string thing. This might be why Touch have put this outin a Mego style card wallet which sits snugly alongside their FenneszCD with the absurdly cumbersome title. Touch seem to be putting outsome of their strongest ever releases in recent times, what with thisand Phill Niblock. All we need now is a new Philip Jeck album to sealit! And speaking of Phill Niblock, it comes as no surprise that Toralhas collaborated with the master of the drone. Anyway, to describeToral's magical flights as ambience would be to do them a greatdisservice, but this is underwater moonlight music to drift and dreamto. Perhaps the drone word is a deceptive one to use here as well,since he does hit the strings softly and these chiming patternscontinually shift and expand. Now I'm off to look for his earlieralbums on Moikai, Dexter's Cigar and Perdition Plastics.

 

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3998 Hits

The Shins, "Oh, Inverted World"

Occasionally bands come along that sound like they don't belong in theour time. They are from a time 20 or 30 years previous, and they recordmusic that thrills and excites because they sound THAT MUCH ahead oftheir time. The press release for this, the debut album by The Shins(under that band name, anyway), says "Face it. The band you've beenwaiting for all these years is The Shins." Indeed. Why does it feellike I've heard this album before, then? Don't get me wrong -- it's afine release. It's just that familiar. Like this is my friend's band.Like I know all the songs already. Like this is a lost Beatles record,one that only I have heard. The Shins are fantastic in all the waysyou'd want a rock band to be: great melodies, great vocal qualities,toe-tapping rhythms, and instrument interplay make for great pop songswith a post-punk sensibility. Guitar lines twang and jangle whileharmonizing and mixing with keyboard and organ lines. Even the "ooh"vocals give you the feeling that this record was recorded in 1967, not2000. The opening calm and then swell into "Caring Is Creepy" prepareyou perfectly for the eclecticism that follows. There are songs thatdrive along, songs that skip, songs that plod, and even songs that makeyou want to dance the Trout. And the lyrics are precious, like on "NewSlang": "gold teeth and a curse for this town were all in my mouth,only I don't know how they got out, dear." It's a great summer recordto lay back and identify cloud shapes to. Comfortable, sweet,endearing, poppy as all hell, The Shins are here to stay, and thankgoodness. We need more bands like this one. Please.

 

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4206 Hits

nurse with wound, "thunder perfect mind"

One of the ironies of the music of Nurse with Wound is the fact thatwhile Steven Stapleton rarely releases something untouched (hencedifferent versions of CD, cassette and LP editions), he's continuouslyrecycling older materials. This month, a newly packaged version of1992's "Thunder Perfect Mind" is available, promised with new artworkand a new remix of "Cold". While TPM was billed as the sister album toC93's one of the same name, the two are musically unrelated. The firsthalf of the original CD is "Cold," 23+ minutes of a choppy looped riffwith loads of found sounds pasted in as effects or rhythmicallymatched, like the recurring glockenspiel sample which has appeared manytimes, reminding me vaguely of a Jaques Berrocal piece whose name I'mblanking on. "Colder Still" set the grounds for what was soon to becomethe played out rhythms and interworkings on both NWW albums 'Rock 'nRoll Station' and 'Who Can I Turn To Stereo?' but on TPM, however, thesound is deep, sparse and is beautifully drawn out to a solid 32¾minutes. "Colder Still" begins thunderous and moves through variouschilly and captivating moments throughout the duration, much like asurrealistic acid-trip influenced horror film score. It is indeed atrip. The Miss Ticker mix of "Cold" is this edition's bonus musicaladdition and honestly varies very little from shorter versions of"Cold:" "Head Cold" (from 'Large Ladies with Cake in the Oven') and"Steel Dream March of the Metal Men" (from the single of the same nameand 'Crumb Duck' CD edition). It's got more grumblings, squeals, EKGsounds, drills, chainsaws and breaking bits, but once you hear thatsignature repetitious riff, the similarities take more promenance. Ofall the versions this song has taken, "Miss Ticker" is now my favoriteas it's the least irritating, most varied and includes a cute voicemail message from John Balance tagged on at the end. As for the newartwork promised in the press release, it's just a digipack with thesame old booklet.

 

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4210 Hits

throbbing gristle, "first annual report" & "grief"

Two other reissues of brainwashed interest arrive in stores this weekcourtesy of Thirsty Ear. These two discs are perhaps the first and mostcirculated TG bootleg CD releases. 'Very Friendly: The First AnnualReport' used to come with a clear warning on the back stating thiswasn't "another live album," but studio recordings from 1975 whichpre-date their first LP release, 'Second Annual Report'. The music infact does sound like a very high quality live bootleg recording. Eitherit's the primitive recording gear they may have had or the limitationsof the source, however it was delivered to the person who first pressedthe LP. 'Grief,' on the other hand is two 23+ minute tracks, with acollage of sounds from numerous TG releases underscoring taped radiointerviews and spots, completely undocumented and unbeknowest who theresponsible party was who created this. Both CDs were first released atsome point in the 1990s from a record label curiously named'Terroristes Genetiques', both appeared to be recorded directly off thebootleg LPs which also surfaced under mysterious circumstances back inthe 1980s. Strangely enough, the most legit label that has publishededitions of these releases, Thirsty Ear, has issued these discs witheven shiftier packaging jobs — completely void of all the newspaperclippings and drawings the others had, replaced by a flimsy-paperedphotocopied cover and booklet with blank white pages. The music howeverisn't up to par with the official studio albums TG recorded between1977 and 1981 — not shocking for bootleg releases — so the marketremains in the hands of collectors, who would most likely own thesethings by now already. So what's the point?

 

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5628 Hits

Pleasure Forever

It's official: Pleasure Forever do nothing for me. I've tried, really.I'd never heard of the band, not under this name nor their previousmoniker Slaves. I listened to the album five times, all the waythrough, before I even tried to write one line of this review. Butnothing thrilled me about this release. It's interesting to listen to,as one rarely hears a three-piece band with guitar, piano, and drums.This feels too much like a "let's try this interesting formula" bandfor me. The musicians are certainly competent, and the songs uniqueenough, but it just isn't my bag. Okay, okay: "Any Port In A Storm"stuck in my head for ten minutes, mainly because of that pianobreakdown in the middle, and "Meet Me In Eternity" is a classicrock-out anthem when it gets going, with singer/piano player AndrewRothbard sounding like a mix of Greg Dulli, Jon Petkovic, and AndrewWood. The album's closer, "Opalescence," is the best track on thealbum, mostly because it's just the right length. Some on this releasego on much farther than they should. It's not a bad album at all. Itjust does nothing for me. Fans of The Afghan Whigs, Cobra Verde, and T.Rex will love the swagger Pleasure Forever pull off. It is impressivewhen they get to rocking, because they pull out all the stops. And Iwanted to like the record, and had plenty of chances to. It's just notfor me. If you like any of the bands I've mentioned, and you'd like tohear an album of good rock songs with a piano base, try PleasureForever. You'll like this record. It's good, it really is, anddeserving of a listen, especially in the time and climate of rock radiothat we're in (I'd rather hear Pleasure Forever on the radio than Creedany day of the week). Try it on. Seriously.

 

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8418 Hits

JOHN CALE, "SUN BLINDNESS MUSIC"

Concurrent to his viola, keyboard and bass guitar duties with theclassic early line-up of the Velvet Underground, John Cale was alsovery busy experimenting by himself and with like-minded associates inNYC lofts. "Sun Blindness Music" is the first of three volumes fromTable of the Elements under the "New York in the 1960s" heading. Thelabel is releasing a wealth of heretofore unheard minimalist music fromthe era, beginning with last year's "Inside the Dream Syndicate VolumeI: Day of Niagra (1965)". But where that disc was much more importantfor its historical context over listening pleasure, this one is betterbalanced between the two. The title track is nearly 43 minutes of VoxContinental organ recorded in October of '67 - passages of discordantor beautiful drone created with stuck keys, flurries of notes andsubtle fluctuations in volume. It's undoubtedly an endurance test bothfor performer and listener, but the piece does manage to be entrancingonce you're acclimated (similar to the effect of a Merzbow track)."Summer Heat", recorded in the summer of '65, is comprised entirely ofa massive wall of nasty guitar sound. Cale strums away on the 6 stringmore as a percussion instrument, the thundering, electric metal tonescreating a rhythmic pattern that relents only once in its 11 minutes.The final track, "The Second Fortress" from late '67 or early '68, isalso done via organ. Here Cale drones, flutters and wavers in quieter,higher pitched tones for over 10 minutes. Interesting, though I stillfind the story and history more interesting than the actual result.It's like William S. Burroughs ... I'd rather read about him thanactually read him. Fortunately this disc features several things TheDream Syndicate disc was sorely lacking: clarity of sound, an elegantdesign and sharp liner notes. Discs 2 and 3, "Dream Interpretation" and"Stainless Gamelan" respectively, will further explore Cale'scollaborations with The Dream Syndicate.

 

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4137 Hits

brume & artificial memory trace, "1st encounter"

Five years after its completion, Montreal-based Alien8 Recordings havefinally issued this collaborative work between Christian Renou (Brume)and Slavek Kwi (AMT). The music is divided nearly equally with thefirst 36 minutes being Brume's de/reconstruction of recordings suppliedby AMT and the last 40 minutes being AMT's de/reconstruction of Brume.While both entities are well-respected on their own — with numerousreleases on labels which include RRR, Intransitive, Relapse and KornPlastics — on '1st Encounter' the sound has reached a new level,sounding almost more complete than before. Environmental, organicsounds are mangled with an almost surrealistic approach on the firsthalf, as Brume brings pulse, rhythm, movement and cut-up analoguesounds to the table. There's never a dull moment as the motions andsources are constantly in a state of change. On the second half, AMTtakes a much different approach, stretching the sounds into a powerfuland rich score of a futuristic journey on an alien insect-infestedplanet. At the risk of sounding redundant, the result is trulyother-worldly. I can imagine fans of early cut-up improv-based Nursewith Wound immediately attaching onto the first half, while fans ofGraeme Revell's 'Insect Musicians' would find pleasure in AMT's half.Sadly enough, Alien8 has announced that '1st Encounter' is limited andwon't be re-pressed or reissued.

 

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4414 Hits

Kristian, Shalabi, St-Onge

You might imagine that if you combined the twisted electronics of David Kristian, the virtuoso playing of Sam Shalabi and demented avant fuckery of Alexandre St-Onge, the result would be an insane soup of aural mayhem. The first commercially available release of this Montreal-based improv supergroup is actually quite the opposite.
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4090 Hits

CANNIBAL OX, "THE COLD VEIN"

Harlem-based duo Vast Aire Kramer and Vordul Megilah have just joinedthe ranks of Intelligent HipHop with their debut long player. Under thetutelage and gritty production of Company Flow's EL-P, Cannibal Oxrepresent both the avant-garde and the streets of NYC with raw beats,angular rhythms, osmotic synth/sample atmospheres and pure inner cityknowledge. The opening track "Iron Galaxy" (first unleashed last yearon a split EP) drops enough stream of conscious science in its 6minutes to almost make the remaining 68 minutes unnecessary.Observations such as "And if there's crack in the basement? / crackheads stand adjacent", "you were a stillborn baby / your mother didn'twant you, but you were still born" and "I rest my head on 115, butmiracles only happen on 34th" speak truths only some truly know withutter conviction. The lessons continue throughout, plus clever boastsand various other tales: "Ox Out the Cage" - "I grab the mic like AreYou Experienced? / but I don't play the guitar, I play my cadence"; "AB-Boys Alpha" - "my first fight was me against five boroughs / I lostmy first wish / but remembered every detail of my first kiss / that'sthat Bronx Tale bliss"; "Real Earth" - "this ain't a space race so whyyou rushin' / to be the first to catch a concussion from EL-P'spercussion?" Musically and lyrically, "The Cold Vein" is the real deal.I'll be surprised if I hear a stronger hiphop album this year

 

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4344 Hits

raymond scott, "manhattan research inc."

Long before children of the '70s and '80s were blipping and bleeping on laptops in the '90s, people were building large walls of gear just to create the simplest electronic melodies. While many contemporaries were experimenting with music concrète, Raymond Scott was making a commercially viable living composing music for advertisements and short films, along with manufacturing equipment like custom doorbells, telephone rings, burglar alarms and ambulance sirens.

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5396 Hits

BIOSPHERE, "SUBSTRATA 2"

Geir Jenssen's 1997 Biosphere album has been remastered and nicelyre-packaged with a bonus disc for Touch. Disc 1 is "Substrata" properand disc 2 is a new, previously unreleased, commissioned soundtrack forthe 1929 Russian film "Man with a Movie Camera", plus the 2 beatinfused bonus tracks from the Japanese edition of the album. Bothdiscs, nearly an hour apiece, offer a continuous, deep ambient jigsawpuzzle - disc 2 being the noisier with a more urban/industrial aura. Weslowly, willingly drift along through chilled out spaces andcityscapes, natural hums and environmental residues, electronic padsand blips, the clutter of metals and trinkets, disembodied voices andappropriated musical passages, synth strings and plucked/strummedstrings ("Kobresia" in particular settles into a beautiful stringedstasis), softly malleted tones and some subtle rhythmic pulsations.Very soothing, very calming, very Arctic. Jenssen's reclusive Norwegianlocale undoubtedly influences the vast, dark and cold nature of hismusic. But what's surprising to me is how emotionally cold much of italso seems despite it's surface beauty ... a sort of depressing, lonelyvoid. That feeling overwhelms me here at times, but sometimes you wantto feel that way, know what I mean?

 

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4649 Hits

Amenti Suncrown, "Zenith Pitch"

The band's name makes striking reference to the Egyptian underworld, and for those non-Egyptologists who didn't get that this would be a dark and ghost-filled album, its provocative title also paints a pitch-black sun. Fluttering and nervous, brooding and cinematic, Zenith Pitch is a nebulous animal which changes it shape & color from moment to moment, like a panicked octopus. With the exception of a few very catchy tracks, like "Blue Khepra" and "Broken Cone," the album tends to focus on the more difficult margins of the dark ambient genre.

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5596 Hits

plaid, "double figure"

Rather than taking the fresh step forward from the hip hop and cosmically influenced varieties of 1999's 'Rest Proof Clockwork,' Plaid have returned to a style much closer to 1997's '333' release. While they're making no leaps and bounds for electronic music as a whole, they succeed in making pleasant, peaceful and easily digestible melodies, using the equipment and styles of 1993-era Orbital, Autechre and Aphex with hints of The Shamen and 808 State circa 1991.

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4981 Hits

TECHNO ANIMAL, COLDCUT, SQUAREPUSHER SINGLES

Three of electronic's most popular acts have released short preludes totheir forthcoming highly anticipated full-length albums. Just when youwere starting to miss the aggression, Techno Animal blasts back withtwo bombastic new tracks (and one instrumental). Fans of last year'scollaboration with Dalek would appreciate the raw energy of "Dead Man'sCurve" combined with an aggressive rap provided by Anti-Pop ConsortianRoger Robinson. "City of Glass" is more subtle but at loud volumes thisdub-based abrasion can be equally as compelling. My only complainthowever is that last year's vinyl-only release didn't turn up here - 15minutes including an instrumental version is kinda weak for a CDsingle: this could have easily been a 7" only. Those too anxious towait for the full-lengther however shouldn't hesitate on this release.
Coldcut also have reintroduced the aggression on their three-track CD"Re:Volution," coincidentally also featuring an instrumental mix of thetitle cut. The duo have picked up the pace, dropped some heavy riffageand let the samples run wild. My preference here lies more towards theinstrumental version as the samples are a bit goofy. "Space Journey" onthe other hand is punchy jazzy number, originally on the 'Let Us Play'LP, the version here is the internet competition winner. Once again Irecommend waiting for a full-length, as the three tracks (of two songs)don't even total 12 minutes together.
Finally, Squarepusher's return to aggression takes the form of thecleverly mis-titled "My Red Hot Car" (upon listening, it's obvioussomething completely different's being said). The two versions don'tdiffer that greatly, the first being the exact version from theforthcoming full-lengther, "Go Plastic" due in July. I'm somewhatpleased Mr. Jenkinson has reverted to his more electronically processedfast breaks circa Big Loada & Hard Normal Daddy — the organics ofthe last couple releases did grow a little tired after many listens,perhsps the album will be a nice balance of everything. At the time Igot this EP I was working on modifications of the Nurse With Woundwebsite, listening to some old gems. Track 3, "Hardcore Obelisk"strangely enough bears a striking resemblance to "Swansong" from the CDedition of 'A Missing Sense' in its sparse dronescapes. Squarepusher'sexperiment however is under five minutes and is absent of a certain'flow' which would work nicely. The fourth track, "I Wish You Obelisk"goes breakbeat silly but ends with one of those irritating silences(this one runs over 20 minutes) followed by a rather enjoyablebass-drone heavy beat-less piece which at the right volume shakes thespeakers and floors. Once again, while I do enjoy the music, I'm goingto have to recommend waiting for the full length.

 

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4584 Hits

deltron 3030, "the instrumentals"

There's a certain amount of irony in releasing an instrumental versionof an existing hip hop album. I have always liked the sounds that camefrom both the Automator and Kid Koala but when I saw Deltron live lastyear, the rap somewhat turned me off of the collective. Thus, I wasexcited at first to hear 75 Ark were releasing an instrumental versionof the debut full-lengther. I was blown away immediately at the startof the album's opener, '3030', the production is seamless and combinesa healthy blend of orchestral samples to some pretty fine hip hopbreaks. The sad yet grand themes could easily provide the underlyingscore for a film crew's survey of the post-apocalyptic remains of afallen society. As the album progresses, the production never weakens,mixing a whole host of other styles and influences. When the patternsand sequences repeat too many times within a song, there is a sensethat there is indeed something missing. I thought I was taking the easyway out by only sticking to the instrumental version, but I find myselfthirsty to uncover the original myself.

 

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4256 Hits

V/Vm presents Dr. Fred & Alien Porno Midgets

Being a V/Vm fan requires a willingness to be continually entertained by the same joke and a willingness to part ways with a lot of money. Here we have two more in an ongoing series of cute, color coded 3" CDs. Both take source material and effect it in some way either to mangle it or simply borrow it. The Alien Porno Midgets disc does it with 8 tracks (different from the preceding Alien 7") of traditional Hawaiian music. Ukeleles, pedal steel and island rhythms are still recognizable but certainly altered as several tracks are reduced to a sonic sludge.

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9479 Hits