RICHARD H. KIRK, "LOOPSTATIC"
Kirk's music in the last four years has definitely been more aggressive and challenging than the earlier more international, ambient and "groovy" releases. If I had to give "Loopstatic" a theme it would be political intrigue with the shortwave radio as a propaganda tool. From his last couple of releases and The Wire interview its clear - Kirk seems to be in full assault mode - using his synths more like machine guns and his samplers as propaganda tools. A stark contrast to earlier works like Digital Lifeforms where everything is smooth and pleasing with minimal political overtones. Today's stuff is much harsher - like going to a hockey game or a riot! A typical track starts with a strange, looped shortwave sample, the mechanical, hihats and other bits start clicking away. Resonant bursts shoot out of his synths like little laser guns as the rhythm builds, and (only occasionally this time) ethnic percussion finds itself enslaved to the 4/4 beat of Detroit house music. Before you know it you are enveloped in a full-tilt sensurround house music experience. I guess you could call it mean and nasty, take-no-prisoners, subversive house music. I've never heard anything like it. - Daniel Barychko
LAB REPORT, "CLASSICAL ATMOSPHERES"
Lab Report is Chicago area artist and musician Matthew Schultz.
"Classical Atmospheres" is his 6th full length album in 9 years, the 2nd of which is entirely self realized and released through his own web site ($12 shipped from labreport.com). Lab Report's music delves into menacing, soundtrack style industrial soundscapes and ambiance via Schultz's "anti-tank guitar" invention, field recordings and samples. With "Classical Atmospheres", as one might assume from the title, Schultz explores classical themes in 5 of the 16 tracks while the rest are more similar to past Lab Report work, as well as other strange new sounds. "Bombastic One" and "Bombastic Finale" are proud miniature orchestras, the former augmented by the somewhat out of place electric guitar soloing of American Records' Johnny Polonsky. "Sad and Somewhat Intoxicated", "Soundtrack Standard" and "Horns and Strings" are brief but beautiful classically minded piano, violin and string/horn pieces, respectively. "The Chase" is a surprising bit of uptempo, metallic rhythm fueled film noir soundtrack that might make Barry Adamson smile. "Dun Dun" is a playful cartoon like loop that, as the insert itself describes, 'becomes irritating' (each track is accompanied by a brief description and b/w photo). The remainder of the album are the ambient/found sound pieces ... drones, washes, hums, thumps, banging and clanging ... all of which are as good if not better than past work. "Introduction" (with additional guitar by Dirty's Tom Slattery) is especially eerie. These tracks are not simply random noises, they are intentional emotive environments. Altogether, "Classical Atmospheres" is Schultz's most successful and challenging (for both the artist and listener) work to date. The balance between old and new sounds and styles works very well and Schultz, as an artist, continues to remain unpredictable and independently push himself forward ... - Mark Weddle
Mille Plateaux has definitely mistaken minimalism for boring drawn out mindless electronica babble. This collection is simply way too promising and comes up short in its delivery. Liner notes outline how the collection you're holding in your hand is so revolutionary and will usher in a new movement to the world of electronic music (blah blah blah,...) - in actuality, this is yet another gratuitous label-invented collection, assembled for their own self promotion. Sure, their intentions are to give some of the finer acts some exposure, like SND, Panacea or Kid 606 - but the tracks each submitted were brimming with medioctrity. Think about the artists themselves: how many compilations can somebody really appear on before it becomes overkill? Agreeing to be on a compilation is fulfilling a favor for the label essentailly - it's difficult for an artist to simply pull a song out of the air and have it be both exclusive and great. In actuality, artists will generally save their best songs for their own albums. Like a depressant this CD will indeed numb your mind and has the potential to make you feel pretty damned stupid. Minimalism isn't about a boring unchanging 4/4 clicky beat that stretches on 8 minutes too long, it's about making the most out of a minimal amount of sources. Sans Panacea and Kid 606, I've wasted both time and money on this collection. - Jon Whitney
"BLUE CUBISM: TRANSCODED AUDIO SUBSTRUCTURES"
Without the hype, this one CD/13 song collection assembles some wonderful examples of challenging electronic pieces. Compiled by Kim Cascone and released through Digital Narcis in Japan, it starts with an alarmingly exciting bit from Terre Thaemlitz and proceeds with other fine selectons from Dumb Type, Tetsu Inoue, Tayler Dupree, Nobukazu Takemura and V/Vm. It makes no promises, yet it makes Clicks_+_Cuts look like "Minimalism for Dummies!" Truer to the ideas of minimalism, there is a slight bit of repetition, but the song structure is actually interesting throughout the entire disc. You're not waiting to stop the damned thing after the first three tracks! Much like a hallucinogen, this disc will play tricks with your mind, excite your senses and keep you on a fun ride, wondering what's due next,... - Jon Whitney
"COZMICK SUCKERS VOL. YELLOW"
Back to Germany for another beat filled electronic collection. Shitkatapult has assembled 12 fun tracks of various 12" releases, both existing and forthcoming. The artists are undoubtedly less known than the other compilations featured this week, but the music in no way is less redeemable. Still relatively minimal, the beats are faster and the sounds are more aggressive and with more depth. Worshipping glitches and noises, some of these artists are incorporating true clicks and cuts into the beats, arranging rhythmic patterns entirely from sampled noises. Others play with more conventional aggressive techno styles, having fun while keeping it interesting all the while. Each artist on this collection walks down a different street from the other, yet remains in the same neighborhood - from the jazzy exotic Magnum 38 to the comical glicky Nanospeed, the noisy T. Raumschmiere or the minimal Spacetank. Similar to the Blue Cubism comp., this disc can be minimal but captivating enough to hold your attention through every revolution of the disc. - Jon Whitney
Also from Germany, through Thrill Jockey in the USA comes this comp of beautiful purely artificial electronic ear candy - none of which is minimal nor poses as anything else. Leave the stuffy minimalists behind and have fun with your music again. Pretty yet mentally twisted tunes on here include gifts from Mouse on Mars, Microstoria, Wang Inc., F.X.Randomiz, Scratch Pet Land and Lithops. Sonig has been releasing 12" singles from these artists already and with luck, this comp indicative of more US releases, full-lengthers and comps to come. - Jon Whitney
Oh boy, back to pointlessness. Release through an arrangement with Virgin records, this compiles loads of previously released and garbage from Fatboy Slim, Underworld and Gus Gus. The only saving grace is "Anon," a cut from Meat Beat Manifesto unavailable elsewhere. Sadly enough the track hardly makes this collection worth the price of admission. A couple decent tracks like Orbital's Mock Tudor or Q-Burns Abstract Message's overuse of Cocteau Twins samples makes this listenable, but not acceptable. Observing the cheesy pastel cheap computer graphics, pot leaf and peace loving messages, it's clear that this disc is made for the less discriminating listener. The message (beneath the 'love your mother earth bit') is consume, buy and accept. It does however accomplish making "Clicks_+_Cuts" look good. If you're a Meat Beat fan and want this for the exclusive cut, shop your local used bins. - Jon Whitney
WEEN, "WHITE PEPPER"
The brothers Ween are back with their most straightforward album to date. "White Pepper" clocks in at less than 40 minutes with a dozen 2 to 4 minute songs. The most shocking thing about this one is that it's not shocking at all. If you're looking for "Push the Little Daisies" or "Piss Up a Rope" you can forget it. The boys have either matured, made a conscious decision to not be as goofy and experimental or maybe both. This is a singalong pop and power pop album for the most part with a heavy nod toward late 60's Beatles. There's a few oddballs here and there: the light and airy Caribbean vibe of "Bananas and Blow" (only Ween would write a song with a chorus "stuck in my cabana, livin' on bananas and blow"), the speed metal of "Stroker Ace" and the jazz rock ala Steely Dan (except it doesn't suck) of "Pandy Fackler". The final three songs: "Stay Forever", "Falling Out" and "She's Your Baby" seem to be completely irony free love songs, the former two with a country-esque flare. "White Pepper" is definitely going to have some people scratching their heads and likely bitching and moaning. Fuck 'em. This is a good album. Ween are currently on tour throughout the States ... - Mark Weddle
THE MACHINE IN THE GARDEN, "ONE WINTER'S NIGHT"
Stunning artwork and innovative packaging from Middle Pillar! Sounding like Rush at times, Battery at other times, and occasionally dipping into the Middle Ages, The Machine In The Garden's latest offering, One Winter's Night, provides us with 52 minutes of enjoyment, but I suspect we won't be listening to it many more times in the future.
The discordant vocals, crashing cymbals, raw and repetitive piano line (IO's Departure), nauseating rhythms and vocal effects (These Illusions) detract from the kick-ass bass line and danceable rhythms of other songs, such as Control. Miserere Mei and Shakespeare-penned Fear No More are stunning with their classical harmonies, very tasteful voice processing, clean snyths, sharp beats and pretty piano. Windows Of Their Eyes and Everything Alone, are pretty in their folkish simplicity.. A wildly inconsistent album - incongruous as a machine in the garden! - Alan Ezust and Julie Geanakakis
THE SOIL BLEEDS BLACK, "ALCHEMIE"
Traditional unadorned instrumentation and medieval melodies come together with badly mixed vocals.
Eugenia Houston's voice has its moments of heaven and hell. Mineralia and Moonburn grate against the nerves with a very sad, nasal voice which is mixed too loudly. On the other hand, she sounds absolutely beautiful in Luna Begets Mercury. Winter Marriage has a very charming woodwind arrangement. Lapis Philosophorum is a hymn with a marching rhythm, and male vocals full of pageantry. After a certain point, however, it became apparent that many of the songs are variations on a theme, and with few exceptions, most of them just blend in with each other indistinctly. - Alan Ezust and Julie Geanakakis
HALF JAPANESE, "OUR SOLAR SYSTEM + SING NO EVIL"
Some of you might not even remember that there were records before CDs were around. And some of them were actually pretty good, and some of them, for reasons known only to the Muses, just never made it to CD. There are a handful of old favorite records that I regularly hunt CD shops for, hoping that some small Lithuanian press will rerelease them on CD-- stupid things like Flying Lizards "Top Ten", Nina Hagen's "Angstlos", and everything by Gang of Four, which only came out a few years ago after lots of squabbling. But at the top of my Most-Missed-Records list has been a pair of legendary albums I haven't seen in a long, long time. 17 years in fact. The year I graduated from high school the greatest albums in human history were released: "Our Solar System" and "Sing No Evil" by Half Japanese.
You might've picked up some of their albums and wondered afterwards why this crappy band has such a following, and so many albums, and why hip record stores continue to keep a 1/2 jap section. You might've even seen the documentary ("The Band That Would Be King") chronicling their rise to international fame, glory and rock immortality and concluded they're nothing more than a joke. But odds are you never heard their greatest moments, which have been locked up and/or lost in the dusty vaults of the now-defunct 50,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Volts Records until this happy, happy, day.
These albums record the moment when the world's most electrifying quartet collided with the world's most cacophanous 13-piece horn section. The songs record the signature teenage-retard fantasies of Jad Fair, full of uneasy speculations about girls, girl athletes, girls with ESP, girls who make him listen to classical music, girls whose boyfriends were hit by trains, girls he secretly likes, girls who might be secretly in love with him. And from there he explores the enduring mysteries of UFO's, Voodoo and Acupuncture, and the immortal "Thing With A Hook" that stalks lover's lane.
Jad Fair never sounded better or more sincere than in these two brilliant albums, which literally explode out of your speakers with an almost Rabelaisian frenzy of picked-on-nerd-anger and unrequited horniness. Music for sociopathic teens? Maybe. But these records are indescribably audacious and document a moment of unbounded, visceral creativity that began with their mind-boggling first album, Half Gentlemen / Not Beasts, which was released, in consideraion of their universe-conquering ambition, as a three album set. Lyrical and sincerely stupid, Half Japanese lay it all on the line in every song, recalling in their squealing half-assed obsessiveness The Shaggs, The Velvet Underground and John Zorn... I can't say it's all worth buying, but I can unequivocally say that these two albums are musical milestones in their own geeky world. Come visit "Our Solar System" and rediscover your neglected inner retard. - Thomas Olson
TRANS AM, "YOU CAN ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT"
Trans Am almost got what they wanted with this release - the right to release the songs they wrote and recorded! It basically stems from the workings of the Japanese music industry. Prices of CDs in Japan are so high, that record labels will demand bonus tracks on CDs released in the land of the rising sun. They do this to avoid mass importing of CDs from the USA and other countries. In turn, bands like Trans Am end up signing the rights over to the label in Japan who'll put anywhere from 5-10 bonus cuts on a CD. Is this fair to the fans? Who is it fair to? Personally I would imagine the damn industry ought to pressure the manufacturers to lower their prices or take their business to pressing plants outside of the country. I also figure that there's more Tortoise, Trans Am, Stereolab and other indie music fans in the North America and Europe importing these discs than there are in Japan buying them. Okay, rant over, this CD collects many (but not all) of the bonus tracks from Trans Am's first four CDs. It's a healthy dose of both the electronic funk and hard rockin' hits. One bonus track, "Monica's Story" has been included while "Alec Empire is a Nazi/Hippie" has been renamed as "Nazi Hippie Empire." Also present are the tracks on that 12" from Happy Go Lucky, "Illegal Ass," "Koln," and "Randy Groove." It's a fun collection and will save some of the fans from buying those overpriced imports, but keep in mind, there are indeed things left out. - Jon Whitney
We know that sometimes these CDs are somewhat challenging to find, which is why we have a RECOMMENDED STORES section which can be used to obtain nearly everything available on the site.
Ah Cama-Sotz - The House of the Lord LP (Ant-Zen, Germany)
Asian Dub Foundation - New Way, New Life two CDEPs (FFRR, UK)
Chicago Underground Duo - Synethesia CD/LP (Thrill Jockey, US)
Geiom - Cut and Pressed 12" [mixes by Infant, Solar X, Bauri, Labortoire Nacht Plank and Hem] (Neo Oujia, UK)
Imminent/Synapscape - Screenwalking CDEP (Ant-Zen, Germany)
Jol - Think Tin 12" (Dot, Sweden)
Kinder Atom - MMM! CD and reMMMixes 12" (nice+smooth, Canada)
Metamatics - Man-Q-Neons 12" (Dot, Sweden)
The Modernist - Explosion CD (Matador, US)
Monokrom - Monokrom CD (Ant-Zen, Germany)
Mouse On Mars - Rost Pocks CD/LP [singles/rarities collection] (Too Pure, UK)
Primal Scream - XTRMNTR CD (Astralwerks, US)
Quant - Tik Tok 12" (Dot, Sweden)
Anthony Rother - simultationszeitalter CD (PSI49NET, Germany)
Zeke Schoon - San Tropez Tonight 12" (Dot, Sweden)
Trans Am - You Can Always Get What You Want CD [singles compilation] (Thrill Jockey, US)
VNV Nation - Empires CD (Metropolis, US)
Vromb - Emission Pilote. CD (Ant-Zen, Germany)
Deejay Punk-Roc - Spoiling It For Everyone CD/2xLP (Epic, UK)
Ensemble - Sketch Proposals CD/LP (Rephlex, UK)
Billy Mahonie/Seafood - split 7" [ltd to 250 copies] (Jonathon Whiskey, UK)
David Toop/Jeff Noon - Needle in the Groove CD (Sulphur, UK - Sulfur/Beggars Banquet, US/Canada)
Cleener - Solaris CD (Metropolis, US)
The Creatures - U.S. Retrace CD [collection of remixes and b-sides previously released as singles in the UK] (Instinct, US)
Devo - Pioneers Who Got Scalped 2xCD [best-of collection] (Rhino, US)
Tarwater - Animals, Suns and Atoms CD (Mute, US/Canada)
We(tm) - Decentertainment CD (Home Entertainment, US)
For a more comprehensive release schedule stretching far into the future, please check out the NEW RELEASES brought to you by Greg and Feedback Monitor.