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Calla, "Scavengers"

Calla is the Texas-bred, NYC-based trio of Aurelio Valle (vocals, guitar), Wayne B. Magruder (programming, percussion, drums) and Sean Donovan (bass, keyboards, programming). "Scavengers" is their second full length in as many years and the first for Michael Gira's Young God Records. The sound is somewhat minimal, always stark yet spacious, centered around husky hushed vocals, cleanly plucked guitar with mild Americana overtones and a seriously deep bass guitar groove. Add to that adequate rhythm and a very slight amount of subtle electronics and programming for atmosphere. Most lyrical passages are morphine drip slow while musical passages are allowed to repeat and crescendo, to a certain point. The image of crawling is expressed lyrically in two songs and in the title of a brief instrumental third, "A Fondness for Crawling". The last track is an utterly beautiful cover of U2's "Promenade" presented as if it were Calla's own ... and it is now as far as I'm concerned. "Scavengers" has an honest and deep sense of vulnerability, longing and heartbreak throughout. It makes you want to listen to it over and over again and revel in it rather than immediately shut it off and slash your wrists. A remix 12" for "Fear of Fireflies / Slum Creeper" is in the works.

3799 Hits

Flux Information Sciences, "Private / Public"

Tristan Bechet of Portugal and Sebastien Brault of Madagascar formed Flux Information Sciences in NYC in 1996 and with the aid of a revolving door membership have released 4 full length albums to date, "Private / Public" being their debut for producer Michael Gira's Young God Records. The duo abuse guitars, bass, keyboards and samplers and are further augmented here by drummer Derek Etheridge. An explosive percussive onslaught drives most of the songs, many 2 minutes or less, with occasional breaks for sample blitz, menacing soundscapes and even some genuine tender moments. A delightfully bizarre fun house/show biz humor prevails as lyrics are generally simple repeated slogans yelled in English over and under the sonic fury. Imagine if you can something that borrows a bit from early SWANS, Suicide, Big Black, The Monks, Devo and James Chance ... it's simultaneously ugly, quirky, chaotic, energetic and fun with a thoroughly lo-fi DIY punk attitude. Some comments on a few of my favorites tracks: "Adaptech" dances like a mechanical monkey on crack. "Sit Down, Silly!" is the best Big Black song they never wrote. "Love" seems sincere with lovely organ and backwards guitar melodies, straightforward drums and the single word lyric, "love". I have a single word summary for all of "Public / Private": FUN!

4199 Hits

Jello Biafra, "Become The Media"

Biafra's crusade continues with his 6th spoken word album in 14 years. Like the previous album, 1998's "If Evolution Is Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Evolve", this one is a lot to take in at well over 3 hours on 3 discs (for the price of 1) of live material from various shows and conventions throughout 2000. And now more than ever Jello, always one to expose corporate, religious and political conspiracies, has a lot to talk about: the presidential election and his brief Green Party candidacy, the World Trade Organization, the Columbine shootings backlash, online networking, censorship, the drug war, mp3s and Napster, his court case with the other Dead Kennedys, reports from the Republican and Democratic Conventions, etc., etc. He successfully conveys this massive amount of information with a mildly comedic delivery ... George W. Bush, Jr. becomes 'King George the II' and Al Gore 'Prince Albert', Newsweek magazine 'News Speak', overbearing corporate dominance 'corporate feudalism', genetically altered food 'Frankenfood', etc. The recurring message throughout is for you to actually care and do something about it - become the media through pirate radio and tv, 'zines, online and offline activism and protest and simply communicating to those "on our side who don't yet know it". Jello makes you think about important issues that effect everyone, regardless of whether you agree with him or not. And though the 'truth' is an ever elusive impossibility, I tend to think his well informed version is closer to reality than most 'traditional' media. Four full length mp3s are freely available at Biafra is currently doing a few shows in Canada .

4288 Hits

Lemon Jelly, "Lemon.KY"

What else would you expect from a group called Lemon Jelly - in a few words: it's mellow, kinda fruity, bright and tasty. The CD on the chopping block is a collection of tunes from three previously released 10" singles from a duo who consists of Fred Deaklin and Nick Franlen (both graphic designers by trade). Fred's got some credit to his name as a unique DJ, as his 'Wheel of Destiny' club nights are set up to decide the musical style every 30 minutes with a spin of the wheel! Nick on the other hand has provided keyboards and drum programming for the Spice Girls and All Saints as well as Primal Scream's recent 'Xtrmntr' and a future slab from overrated Britpop wankers, Pulp. People have tagged Lemon Jelly as bringing renewed interest to "nu-lounge" sound. It's got a fondness of dub and an eye on cheery electronic interplay, not entirely unlike Kruder & Dorfmeister and associated side projects or Arling & Cameron. Yeah, these groups always come in the form of duos! Guitar samples, horn stems, organ-imitating keyboards, and rhythmic percussives are all elemental to each song which could easily provide a backdrop to doing your taxes on a Sunday afternoon.

4102 Hits

Boyd Rice, "The Way I Feel"

Boyd Rice is no stranger to heated discourse, especially when it comes to much of his heavily spoken releases. This compilation is one of collaboratives, including songs with Tiffany Anders, Shaun Patridge, and Little Fyodor as well as Douglas P, Coil, David Tibet and many others. The irony here is that while Boyd's music as Non can be brutish and aggressive yet completely void of personal interjection, the music on 'The Way I Feel' is full of gentle and serene music as a backdrop for his vocalized feelings which frequently echo a dark side that most people won't admit to having. Songs have been hand-picked by Boyd himself and provide a nice variety with the inclusion of instrumental things like the Sickness of Snakes track "Many Hands" or the "Pearls Before Swine" theme. Music is included from 'Hatesville,' 'Music, Martinis & Misanthropy,' along with various cuts originally only available on 7" and compilation albums. Tactfully absent are diatribes which could be interpreted as Social Darwinistic or fascist. The disc includes all previously released songs, but features some rarities and things you'd never want to purchase in their original surroundings, like "Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder" from the 'Grace of My Heart' soundtrack. Boyd is a writer, noisemaker, prankster and poet, undoubtedly an entertainer. Unfortunately music listeners generally don't believe a song can be as fictitious as a book or film. This is where much of the problems of interpreting people like Boyd Rice, Douglas Pearce and even older Coil music comes into play. These music makers should be regarded like fiction writers or impressionistic painters, taking influence from uncountable sources and artfully spitting them out for our entertainment and introspection. Make them into something more and then you've become the entertainment, getting into angry fights over email lists is something these guys want you to do.


6098 Hits

Dark Star, "Travelogue II"

Nearly seven years ago a CD resembling this one appeared, sharing seven tracks, four of which featured members Edward, Phil and Ryan of Legendary Pink Dots. The main core of Dark Star decided to record a sequel but it never surfaced. In the meantime, the original disc was difficult to obtain and most likely went out of print. This release basically serves a couple purposes. It reintroduces seven songs from the first release, keeping the music available and adds four newer ones, remnants from an uncomplete sequel. For LPD fans who don't already have the original release, this is a great chance to get all the songs as they originally were recorded, fans of the original release can get over a half hour of new music, while people who bought it and don't need to hear any more can easily pass on slapping the money down for it. As for the music itself, the four new songs fit rather well with the rest. The music is generally an eerie mid-paced electronic throb with either a distorted guitar or ballsy bass. Both old and new songs would appropriately score a chilling futuristic horror film. My only issues lie with the tacky lyrics from the non-Kaspel singer.


4970 Hits

Mahogany, "The Dream of a Modern Day"

Call it what you will, electro femme vox twee dreampop, this debut album from Mahogany fills emptiness left in your heart when The Sundays stopped recording albums. Indie geeks have been known to sport rods hearing the super-high pitched airy vocals of bands like this or Pram, I find it rather irritating, dull and get damn sick of it before long. Personal preference aside, the vocals are truly poorly mixed, without much depth or clarity. The duets between the female and male vocalist are even more unnecessary. Unfortunately some of the music on this disc is absolutely incredible sounding, an almost perfect match of delayed atmospheric guitars with electronic percussion and effects. In all honesty at the end of the disc, I'm rather fond of it and have a couple tracks stuck in my head. Damn you, damn you, I can't really hate anything from Dearborn, Michigan.

4463 Hits

Vladislav Delay, "Anima"

This is the first of surely many for 2001 from the young yet prolific Helsinki based producer Luukas Onnekas. The word 'anima' is a psychological term meaning essentially 'an inner feminine part of the male personality'. Both the artwork, a pastel enshrouded woman, and music, demure and beautiful, perfectly reflect these qualities. The disc is indexed as a single 62 minute track, a continuous organic flow that constantly, unpredictably shifts gears while retaining recurrent themes and coherence. Delay's sound set is a vast, atmospheric sonic sandbox of arctic synth pads, low end blips and throbs, fragments and smears of fractured audio and an expansive selection of percussive minutiae. Melody and rhythm are sometimes more implied than expressed, allowing for your brain to fill in the blanks, and at other times coalesce effortlessly, flawlessly and gracefully all on their own. Stagnation is the enemy as a few notes of wash background are about the only element allowed to loop for any great length of time. The piece ends by gradually, almost unwillingly, dissolving and fading away finally concluding with a crash and sampled dialogue ... "I might never go to sleep again, I might stay awake forever!" Absolutely gorgeous. Pure genius. Yet another masterpiece. I wonder how many other slots Delay will fill in my best of 2001 list? Also out now is the LUOMO "Tessio Remixes" 12" on Force Tracks to be followed by a new full length later this summer. samples:

4346 Hits

Monolake, "Gravity"

Monolake is German producer/programmer/engineer Robert Henke, apparently now solo as former partner Gerhard Behles is credited only with additional production. Much of their music has long been both dance floor and headphone friendly and "Gravity" is no exception, though as with the previous album "Interstate" techno and digital ambient lovers will have even more to cheer about. Gone are the dub influenced rhythms (which is a shame because they do it so well) but a dense, open and fluid spaciousness remains as a playground setting for clinically precise computer sounds and calm and collected, levelheaded rhythms. Track titles are as deceptively simple as the tracks themselves, most 7 to 10 minutes, as beat patterns shift in gradual increments and backgrounds evolve. "Mobile", "Zero Gravity" and "Aviation" contain the most intriguing selection of liquid, gaseous, metallic and alien melody making sounds. "Ice" tosses about frozen human sighs and hisses over cool future funk. "Frost" is too stagnant due to unduly repetitious beats. "Static" and "Fragile", like "Frost", are also rhythmically repetitious but not tediously so as what lies beneath the beat breathes. "Nucleus" is a steady roar of night air devoid of all beats that simply fades away over the final few minutes. All in all "Gravity" feels like a darker, more streamlined version of "Interstate". I'm pleased. Monolake will be playing shows in Montreal, Toronto, Lithuania and Italy in February and March. samples:

4455 Hits

Senking, "Trial"

"Trial" is the fourth cd by Jens Massel as Senking and the sixth of seven releases to date in Raster-Noton's 'static series', all of which are packaged in anti-static bags. Massel arranges effected electronic sounds into essentially single riff songs with dub, glitch and minimalist qualities. The 8 tracks are aptly titled, most between 4 and 5 minutes. "Flaw" fires up with a snap, crackle and pop of static and submarine sonar pings. "Wind Up" is busy with rolling pops, bass bumps, mechanical winding and steam hisses. "Lurk" and "Trackdown" would make an appropriate soundtrack for cinematic stalking, playing down the beats some for dark drone, hiss and click. "Hide Out" is the center and master piece, an 8 and 1/2 minute pattern of warm, melodic dub. "Pell-Mell" rumbles along with blips, ticks and a short vocoded sample. "Dent" skips along merrily with deep bass under the crackle and buzz of a power line surge. "Lift" caresses with high pitched clicks, swooping tones and watery plunks. "Trial" is pleasant enough with a good bit of stylistic variety but not much of a progression and not too terribly memorable. Once again, I'd be happier with a single or double disc compilation of select tracks from all of Massel's many releases to date as Senking, Fumble and Kandis.


4244 Hits

Psychic Enemies Network, "Valis"

Geographically seperated brothers John and Matt Thorne are Psychic Enemies Network. "Valis" further explores the psycho-sonic territory initially tapped on their 1998 self released, self titled debut. Their music comes from a wide range of world percussion (djemba, toas drum, african kettle, elephant bell, hand percussion, etc.), guitar, bass, trumpet (by David Chapman), synths, sequences and samples. The mix is contained to a point, never allowed to boil over into the red, and a feeling of slightly unsettling transcendence is present throughout. Quite a bit of thought seems to be going in to it all too as track titles reference such varied topics as irregular heart actions, Philip K. Dick novels, henna painting and geographical projections. "Arhythmia" begins as a warm ambient loop later adding exotic rhythms and background samples for a sound similar to late '80s Muslimgauze. "Come Crumbling" is a murky mix of voices and trumpet drone. "Sandfall" perfectly marries shimmering loops with pan melodies, female backing vocals and a deep electro-bass groove. "Tilted Earth" builds a hypnotic wall of sound from trumpet wails, finger cymbals, bells and chimes. "Bowl Cut" is a mildly funky blend of jazz drumming and quirky synth riffs. "Radio Free Albemuth (altman)" amusingly cuts and pastes samples culled from various musical projects the Thornes have been involved in for some Nurse With Wound-like fun. "Valis" beautifully accentuates swirling ambient guitar and samples with light brushed snare and subtle trumpet playing. "Mehendi" swings a little with a jazzy rhythm and moody bass. "8/7/96" rips and tears audio fragments over a few looped notes of clean guitar. And "Gnomonic" concludes the album as it began with a quiet, albeit rhythmic, loop. Altogether "Valis" is varied, flows well and shows a studied progression. Psychic Enemies Network have definitely found their niche! Up next is a series of side projects under the 'Psychic Enemies Network Presents' umbrella including Para!Helion "Midaq Alley" (with John Thorne and David Chapman - more of a straightforward world music project, also recommended) and Fez Dispenser (with Matt Thorne). Info may be found at .


3886 Hits

Thighpaulsandra, "I, Thighpaulsandra"

The man known as Thighpaulsandra could very well be the definition of a modern musical mad scientist—pure genius with a maniacal manifestation of sound. His debut Eskaton full-length release (don't get all semantic on me, this isn't his first full-length nor first Eskaton release) comes as a double CD of all new material featuring contributions from members of Coil, Spiritualized and Julian Cope's band as well as his mum.

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6539 Hits

Repeat, "Select Dialect"

With a name as innocuous as Repeat and a cover as stunningly ugly as the one for "Select Dialect", it's no wonder that I discovered this recording in the "To Be Listened To Sometime Later, Maybe, If At All, Or Perhaps I'll Just Use These as Beer Coasters" pile of CDs at the home of this e-zine's esteemed editor. The cover looks awful. It looks like it was designed with random scraps of construction paper. It's difficult to tell what the band name is and what the album's title is, because of the awkward placement of words on square, green splotches unevenly distributed across a baby-blue (ugh!) scrap of cardboard. If I didn't happen to be turning over and examining every single CD on said editor's table one evening, this fine recording would have gone entirely unnoticed by either of us.
Repeat is the duo of Swiss percussionist Jason Kahn and Toshimaru Nakamura, who plays an empty mixing board feeding back into itself and wired out to a sampler. He tweaks the high-pitched feedback, and samples it in real-time. You may remember Nakamura from last year's fantastic "Four Focuses" CD, in which he performed duos with Sachiko M, Otomo Yoshihide, and the great Martin Tetreault. Both Nakamura and Kahn have been active in the international improvised music community for at least a decade, and Repeat may be their attempt to expand their audience beyond the already initiated.
What is most unexpected is how close this duo resembles the post-techno sound being set forth by labels such as Raster-Music and Karaoke Kalk. Nakamura's mixing desk shimmers with pleasant tones (yes, actual tones!), as well as the expected high-pitched squiggles. Kahn's metallic scraping and occasional synthesizer repeat simple melodic phrases, and his more traditional percussion even keeps a steady beat. In the album's closing track, Kahn's lightly stuck bowls ring and combine with a flute-like sound (the origin of which I will not attempt to locate), for an effect not dissimilar to polite New Age. From two musicians who have existed for years at the outside of the improvised music community, it is certainly novel to hear these song-like forms emerge. There are edgy moments, but not many, so if this is some listener's way into the potentially alienating world of electro-acoustic improvised music, then that's just fine with me. As it is, it's pleasant enough, and if I didn't know who these folks were, I wouldn't think twice about how oddly normal it was.


4360 Hits

Shizuo, "More Morphine"

Former Atari Teenage Riot sound engineer and current DHR artist David Hammer (a.k.a. Shizuo) presents his first release on his own label. All 4 songs have much more color than DHR stuff usually does, (with the exception of Lolita Storm, who I still love). "More Morphine" was written with DJ Scud (Londoner who runs Ambush Records and in collaborotation with NYC's I-Sound, Full Watts). It is filled with vocals and is like a male Lolita Storm. "Nuerology" is like DMZ, The Twinkeyz, or Lou Reed filtered through The Cramps and then some. "16 Licks" goes extreme at the end of each bar. It starts with the guitar lick from "Keep Me Hanging On". It goes on to sample vocals from Crass and David Bowie. "Dealing Drugs" has spoken samples that provide the feel for the song. It is sparse in spots and has the noise wash in others. It ends with a looped vocal that has to be manually lifted from the turntable (locked groove). This single is actually pretty good if you like life hard.

4908 Hits

"Paris Vu Par"

A compilation from Cherry Orchard's record label in France. Like Bambini's 'Mystery Date Game' and 'Voyage Romanesque' and Invicta Hi-Fi's 'Special Skool' comps this record attempts to create the cool atmosphere that Siesta and El Records have done on their international pop compilations, with just a dash of the electronic pop that J-pop specializes in so well. Every band wrote a song about Paris just for this compilation. For me the 2 standout tracks are the Baxendale cut "The New Parisienne Pop And Soul" and The Cherry Orchard's "We Could Fall In Love". These 2 tracks are classics of each of the bands that are exclusive to this disc. Baxendale remain one of my very fave bands of 2000. Le Hammond Inferno sound very J-pop on the instrumental "Stylostumpt". The track sounds very familiar though I can't place from where. It is very energetic and catchy. Merrick's (from Munich) do a pretty good song "Fur Paris gilt das Nicht" that is nice even though it's not one of my faves. It almost sounds like a mellower Francoise Cactus (of Stereo Total) singing. She even says "Crazy Horse" (the title of a Stereo Total song from 'Juke-Box Alarm') in the lyric of the track.

3909 Hits

Pan(a)sonic, "Aaltopiiri"

Ilpo and Mika have come a long way from their beginnings as Panasonic. The music which at one point utilized a minimal amount of effects and sources, creating an aggressive and direct mixture has become a more resourceful blend with a deeper understanding of variety and reflection, sonority and permanence. Their fourth full-lengther together is once again rather chunky to swallow all at once. With 17 new tracks totalling over an hour's worth of music, I must admit I wasn't a big fan at first. Further listenings have unearthed what appears to be both organic and synthetic sounds, a production approach which is very matured in comparison to 1997's 'Kalma,' and a distinct identity between songs. Minimalism, this isn't. It's not all subtle and introspective, however. Unlike 'A,' this album does indeed reach a climax. Towards the end of the disc, the energy builds up to a monsterous roar, good for some wall-shaking needs, which leads me to believe they might be storing an arsenal of more beefy 808-kick tracks for another 12" release as stellar as 'B' was.


4387 Hits

Shipping News, "Very Soon, And in Pleasant Company"

Jason Noble and Jeff Mueller's musical collaborations first manifested on the only release from Rodan back in 1994. Following the split, Jason went to the Rachel's and Jeff to June of '44 but the two came together along in 1996 to record with for the PBS program "This American Life." Kyle Crabtree (from Eleven Eleven) joined in 1997 and a debut album, "Save Everything" was released. Four years later, a second album has arrived with help from Christina Files (Mary Timony, Victory at Sea) twiddling knobs.

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4618 Hits

Sybarite, "Music For a Film"

Synthetics and organics coexist in harmony on this full-length release from multi-instrumentalist Xian Hawkins. Some might recognize his name from the Silver Apples reunion assembly as the "other guy" than Simeon, but this New Yorker has an identity all his own. This music originally served as the score for a 1999 independent suspense/thriller film by Patrick McGuinn, "Killing Me Tomorrow," and is composed of 14 tracks which total about 41 minutes-worth. The songs are short, sweet and waste no time, with shimmering guitar melodies, subtle string sounds and low-tempo electronic beats in parts. The unobtrusive mix makes it perfect for a film score, with fade-outs it has obviously been slightly tailored for the commercial release. I'm now looking forward to finding out where Hawkins' career is headed next.


4842 Hits

Pan•American, "East Coast Bugs"

The latest release from Labradford's Chicago resident, Mark Nelson takes the form of 12" vinyl from BSI Records of Portland, OR. This 12" (limited to 2000 copies) provides 24 minutes with 2 exclusive tracks mastered by BSI's mix maven Sound Secretion. Unlike his superb full length albums on Kranky, Pan•American singles (including the 10" on Kraak and 12" split on Fat-Cat) are truly solo efforts devoid of contributions from other players.
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4417 Hits

The Walker Brothers, "The Singles +"

From a small label in Holland comes this amazingly priced double CD set, a singles compilation from Scott Engel, John Maus and Gary Leeds, who are most commonly known as Scott, John and Gary Walker. The collection grabs 45 A-sides and popular hits from the trio both together and in solo form, stretching from 1965 through 1981.

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4705 Hits