SENIOR COCONUT, "TOUR DE FRANCE/EXPO 2000"
Uwe Schmidt's Senor Coconut project is probably his most popular incarnation. This 12" has 3 versions of the Kraftwerk song 'Tour De France' and 2 versions of 'Expo 2000'. All but one of the songs are unique to this 12". There is the 'Merigue album version' of "Tour De France" taken from the 'El Baile Aleman' CD. You get 2 more verions of the song here as well: the 'Good groove's 501 Vocal mix' and the 'Good groove's 501 Instrumental mix'. All three versions break out of the tight confines of the pretend 'neo-Latin' music that the Kraftwerk cover record sticks to. This 12" is the only place you'll find his version of the recent Kraftwerk 'comeback' song "Expo 2000". there are 2 versions here: the 'Mambo Original' and the 'Mambo Instrumental'. Uwe Schmidt seems to excel at whatever he does. A few weeks ago I heard the second Flanger CD he did along with Burnt Friedman. Although I am not usually one for straight up jazz, that CD sounded crystal clean and somewhat unique in it's combination of traditional jazz and modern electronics. I can't wait to hear his Erik Satin project, which I've heard is his EasyMusic deconstruction act - kind of similiar to what Tipsy is doing. - Carl Thien
RYOJI IKEDA, "MATRIX"
A major tragedy of the last few years is the growing usage of computers as exclusive music listening environments. Kids are growing up in a world without experiencing true high fidelity, a life without listening to an uncompressed music source through a stereophonic amplifier with warm room speakers. It's all MP3 to them and why the hell not: it's free right? Ikeda is probably onto this, which prompted him perhaps to record something like 'Matrix.' Disc one, "Matrix [for rooms]" stretches about an hour over ten tracks. It absolutely cannot be experienced to its fullest intent without a relatively decent stereophonic sound system with appropriate space between speakers, placed well inside a room. Well who the hell are you to tell me how to listen to this? Track one: the pulses are established, elements fade in, space is established between the speakers. Walk around the room and hear pulses changing sequence or solidifying into one solid tone depending on where you stand and how you hold your head. Track 2: the wood on a coffee table starts vibrating, rattling a pen. Track three: pitches change, earlier tones fade out, this guy is either a fucking genius or I'm going crazy. Track four: where can I get some hallucinogenic drugs? Track five: blissful massaging of the inner ear. I think I'm going to stop here and reccomend that you try your own experience now. Think of this CD as a movie you buy on video or DVD to have at home, to watch every now and again, to entertain guests with (this disc does sound different if there's multiple people in the room versus being alone) or just to pull out on a Saturday afternoon between lunch and your evening plans. Do not, however, listen to this on your computer or in your car or anywhere 'convenient.' It demands your full attention. For fans of Ikeda's head bobbing, almost poppy rhythmic multi-tonal work, there's always disc two. ".Matrix" also features ten new tracks, a half hour of cleverly-crafted beat friendly gems, stylish and intoxicating. It is in no way less spectacular than disc one, both of which make this package well worth the wait and an excellent bargain for the inexpensive price. - Jon Whitney
THE RED KRAYOLA, "BLUES, HOLLERS AND HELLOS"
Though the bright, streamlined bounce of first-track "Container of Drudgery
(Never Had a Name)" seems to be crafted with almost excruciating precision
next to last year's noise-saturated Fingerpainting, don't let the opening
strains fool ya. The Red Krayola's new six song EP eventually flexes and
fractures into the same smattering of electronic chirps and indifferently
colliding rhythms and melodies that characterizes their other recent Drag
City releases. Midway through the album, the spastic rhythms and synthesized
squawking and burping commence. These moments are capable of producing the
fear and agony of one confined to a room filled with two-year-olds and
Fischer Price instruments. On "Is There," vocals, guitar, synthesizer, and
drums all seem to improvise playfully with only the occasional nod to
solidarity and structure. This isn't a problem in itself, but the same
cryptic sing-song lyrics and compulsively spastic tapping that carry through
most of The Red Krayola's albums now seem uninspired and more likely to
induce nervous twitching than appreciation. Yet when the fun and bluesy
instrumental "6-5-3 Blues" eventually breaks into chewy electronic twists,
you can't help but feel the scattered moments of cohesion are worth (most
of) the disarray. The last two tracks maintain this balance with flair.
While 'Blues, Hollers and Hellos' may not be The Red Krayola's best, the more
varied use of electronics makes up for some the inconsistency and you can't
help but be grabbed when it's disparate elements come together just right.
The slow "Magnificence as Such" rolls with cymbals and fuzzy, meandering
guitars while Mayo Thompson's wobbly croon, "Still it slays me when I touch
magnificence as such," may even produce pangs of tragedy and beauty in those
who typically cringe. Yum. - Diane Lewis
ULAN BATOR "EGO : ECHO"
Ulan Bator is a French avante art rock trio who apparently take their
name from the capitol of Mongolia. "Ego : Echo" is their third album
and it was for the most part spontaneously created during 3 weeks of
sessions last summer in Florence, Italy with producer and Young God
Records head Michael Gira (SWANS, The Angels of Light). Ulan are all
about tight and minimal, tense and repetitive guitar/bass/drum rock
grooves - both noisy and subdued - as musical and (French) vocal
passages become hypnotic head noddin' mantras. Add organ, piano, bow,
keys, horn, tape loops, electronic drone, 'la la la' styled backing
vocals and Gira's dry, crisp, clean and full production. Comparisons
to Can, Faust (Jean Herve Peron contributes horns to 1 song), the Bad
Seeds and Gira's own projects is inevitable as everything is sparse
yet beautifully melodic and the sound and feel is similar, at the very
least, in spirit. The 16 minute centerpiece "Let Go Ego" in particular
provides the variety of most everything Ulan Bator do in one song with
extensive stretches of drone, somnambulant sonic meandering, heavy rock
out and lengthy coda chant. "Ego : Echo" is a dynamic rock record that
resonates with passion and a sense of straightforward urgency. It's
one of a handful of cool musical things lately from France and it fits
right in with the rest of the Young God catalog. Up next from YGR are
albums by Calla and Flux Information Sciences in January and the new
Angels of Light album "How I Loved You" in February ... - Mark Weddle
TEAM DOYOBI, "PUSH CHAIRS FOR GROWN UPS"
Can't say I'm terribly surprised that a label run by the Autechre folks would put out an EP like this. Team Doyobi's style is relatively remeniscent of an older, more squarish 4/4 beat-filled Autechre sound, yet the group explores more with melodic motives than Booth and Brown seemingly did back in "the day." The release is an eight track mini-lp stretching approximately a half hour. The music is enjoyable, bright and bouncey, with innovative usage of sampled and synthesized sounds tapping out the melodic rhythms. Fans of glitchy Mouse On Mars beat music will definitely be keen on this one as there's various video-game esque samples and over-processed primitive sounding analogue synthetics tossed in to color the tunes. As good as it is, however, it's nice to have it short and sweet. There's not an incredible amount of variety in terms of tempo change and feeling between the different songs, so something like this would be a bit heavy to digest had it been twice as long. - Jon Whitney
YO LA TENGO, "DANELECTRO"
Following the energy from this year's spectacular full-length offering, "And then Nothing Turned itself,..." Yo La Tengo have come up with three pleasant new instrumental gems. The group called all three songs Danelectro and coupled them with a remix of each to round out the CD EP. A short but sweet hip-hop variation is brought to the table by somebody who goes by the moniker of Q-Unique, while a rather intense jazzy cut, spliced and over-layered version has been treated by San Fran's Kit Clayton. My favorite however would be the 11+ minute electronic sunshine reinterpretation from Nobukazu Takemura. In my opinion, while Takemura's work was in no way 'cut out' for him, he did have the prettiest source material to work with. While I'm fond of Yo La Tengo's LPs and this EP, these songs might sound rather out of place on an album from the group known for their vocal pop rock material. There's something that's somewhat indescribable about the brightfulness of the melodies themselves, it's almost as if they possess a certain Holiday spirit. Perhaps this EP was intended to be a Christmas-type release from the NY threesome. I'm not aware of this yet I'm not convinced otherwise. - Jon Whitney
HIGH LLAMAS, "BUZZLEBEE"
It's tough to try to talk about a release from the High Llamas without mentioning Stereolab, but when you've got Sean O'Hagen leading a chorus of girls singing pretty "la la"s combined with airborne melodies, loads of chimes and vintage organs, comparisons are as unavoidable as the moose standing in the middle of the highway as you barrel towards it at 65 miles per hour. I quite like this disc however. It provides an excellent Sunday brunch soundtrack, hungover as the bright sun bleeds in through the blinds. "Here, honey, how about a tall glass of orange juice with some fresh new High Llamas?!" Never too abrasive and not incredibly repetitious, the tempo and feel for nearly all of the songs strike a wonderful emotional chord. The album's sound features a gentle blend of vibes and processed guitars with a fondness of late 1960s soundtrack music. I appreciate the variety of instrumental, male and female vocal tracks as it does somewhat break up a certain monotony that would be there had they not done it. - Jon Whitney
ECHOBOY, "VOLUME 2"
Talk about variety, the second Echoboy album of the year once again follows a seemingly multi-genre'd blueprint as Volume 1. Richard Warren, who goes by the name of Echoboy has gathered another ecclectic collection of nine self-recorded self-produced delves into audio experimental pop influenced rock tunes. Whether it echoes early 80s electro pop a'la Peter Schilling's "Major Tom" or 90s analogue synth retro, Warren's energy is fiery and relentless, his talent as a songwriter and musician is undying. Some songs carry a feverish pulse, with a utilization of guitars and vintage keyboard sounds not entirely unlike good old Suicide or Trans Am. When the slower paced tunes creep through the speakers, the music is never less saturated. The usage of various organic drums with electronic drum machines, guitar filters, bass lines and special effects . Echoboy's loved by critics and adored by college DJs all over the world, I assume because it seems like the guy's a rabid music fan like the rest of us, and hasn't decided to make a 'band' to only focus on one style. If I only had one complaint about Echoboy, it would be that this guy has way too many limited edition singles and EPs of which many tracks will probably be lost, never to see the light of day again. Brilliant asshole. - Jon Whitney
LE CAR, "AUTO BIOGRAPHY"
Also with a fondness of vintage analogue keyboards and rockin tunes is this defunct (?) Detroit duo. Herein lies 23 tracks recorded between 1996 and 1998, pulled from various out of print 12" and EP releases. Le Car's automobile has been retrofitted with analogue keyboards, but it drives quite smoothly and is exciting to show off. Pounding beats and catchy melodies throughout the disc make it entertaining, enjoyable and a true hit with your friends. With songs like "Flame Job," and "Malice" visions of Human League and Heaven 17 dance in the head while tracks like "Audiofile Five" echo early melodic 808 State, undersaturated in effects and gear however. 'Auto Biography' serves as a great collection as well as an excellent reference point, as both members have jumped into other moving vehicles, Adult and Perspect. - Jon Whitney
SCHNEIDER TM, "BINOKULAR"
This is the first release of Dirk
Dresselhaus (schneider TM) since his 'Moist' full length was licenced for UK release by Mute
from Germany's City Slang Records. He has made this 6 song mini-album in collaboration with
KPT.michi.gan aka Michael Beckett (who usually joins schneiderTM as part of his live band),
and Japanese artist Hanayo http://www.hanayo.com/ (her site has a lot of fun things to
look at). Hanayo is a very interesting person based on a look around her site. She provides the
vocals (another first on any schneider TM release) on 2 songs" "Onnanoko" and "The Light
3000", which is a cover of The Smiths song "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out". Pretty
neat, huh? In fact it is. I loved the Moist album and I like this a lot too. The first song on each
side are busy instrumentals, the second song on each side are quiet instrumentals, and the last
song on each side are the vocal tracks. - Carl Thien
THE REMOTE VIEWER, "SURFACE SHAKE OFF YOUR CARES" EP
"Part of the 'Atom Series', a series of limited vinyl only releases by Atomic
Recordings favourite new artists from around the globe" informs the website. Atomic Recordings
is a Belgium label, The Remote Viewer is a Leeds UK band formed by 2 ex-members of Hood
who also used to record as The Famous Boyfriend. The music is 4 instrumentals that are
electronic and slightly somber in tone, kind of like an early morning/late night ISAN. Atomic
Recordings was also associated with 'In The Fishtank', the series that released the collaboration
between The Ex & Tortoise, and a Guvner disc as well. 'In The Fishtank' captures exclusive
Amsterdam recording sessions by touring bands. 'In The Fishtank' is run by their dutch
distribution company 'De Konkurrent' with Atomic Recordings taking care of the vinyl. The
Remote Viewer also have a new 12" out on Domino Records as part of their resusitated 'Series
500' 12" line.
- Carl Thien
CUBISMO GRAFICO, "TOUT!/SOUND FOR ESCAPE"
Cubismo Grafico is Gakuji Matsuda: DJ, remixer, and musician, born Feb. 12 1970, known to
his friends as Chabe. He lives in Tokyo and is one of the top male J-pop artists around today,
along with Pizzacato Five's Konishi Yasuharu, Mansfield's Masanori Ikeda, and Losfeld's
Masashi Naka. Pizzacato Five have been around for a long time and are the modern fathers of
this sound, but it is only recently that male vocalists are breaking out into popularity. Until recently
artists like Yukari Fresh and Takako Minekawa were the new faces and voices. Cubismo
Grafico, Losfeld, and Mansfield are almost a united force to me. They have similiar palettes and
are all very classy and clever without being pretentious. Pizzacato Five's Maki Nomiya has just
put out her first solo album on Readymade records. Soon Konishi Yasuharu's first release as
Punch The Monkey will come out. He may join this group of J-pop artists and take his rightful
place on top of it all - we'll have to wait and see. Meanwhile, there are some great releases to
enjoy at home, and this is one of them. I really love the song "Trip To Rio". It is not a bossa or
samba song like it's title would imply. It is super upbeat with a female Japanese "rapper" doing
the type of vocal I like best in J-pop. It is a non-threatening "Yo" type street tough that reminds
me of a miniature dog yipping. Of the 15 songs on this CD 9 are less than two minutes long. On
one of the short songs ("Ya-Ya!") Yukari Fresh guests, on another ("Tonight You Belong To
Me") Hideki Kaji. The 6 longer songs pull their weight completely though. The song "Fairytale Of
Escape" is the acid test to tell if you like this whole sound at all. The song is so perfect that if you
do not like it you can rest assured that you need not check out any of the other J-pop I'll ever
mention. It is an awesome song that Chabe must be very proud of. I can't wait till he tops it on
- Carl Thien
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.