Veritable one-man-band J.G. Thirlwell returns with his first full length as Foetus proper since 1995's somewhat misguided major label effort "Gash". Holed up in his well-stocked NYC-based studio, the self-proclaimed 'Master of Disaster' learns and uses whatever he needs to forge his unique brand of industrial-jazz-swing-big-band-rock. With "Flow" he hasn't reinvented the wheel but he has built a better mouse trap. The over-saturation of heavy guitar that plagued "Gash" has been tastefully restricted to let the underbelly of sound flourish. Pounding rhythms often constructed of jackhammers, shattered glass and metal on metal lay a solid foundation for dense arrangements of horns, strings, bass, guitars, synths, samples and the one and only caterwaul. It could very easily be a giant mess, and in a way it is, but gloriously so as Thirlwell's composition skills are the glue that holds it all together. And lyrically he's as clever as ever with numerous and humorous insights, clich│s, puns, and pop culture references. "Quick Fix" and "The Need Machine" are fun to sing along with as they knock you down. "Cirrhosis of the Heart" draws a parallel between love and alcoholism over a lighthearted cocktail jazz jaunt. "Mandelay" and the epic, near 13 minute "Kreibabe" juxtapose quiet and simply brutal passages. One of my favorite lines from the latter - "I wanna whisk you away with me / I'll be the whisker / you be the whiskey". "Suspect" is a film noir joyride while "Heuldoch 7B" is pure big band bombast. "Someone Who Cares" is foetal pop, featuring lovely horn and guitar solos and female backing vocals. Yep, "Flow" is quintessential, classic Foetus. Other projects in the can: Manorexia "Volvox Turbo" (available now at the shows or foetus.org) and the companion album "Blow" (September 16) with remixes by Panacea, Amon Tobin, DJ Food, Franz Treichler of The Young Gods, Kid 606, Jay Wasco, PanSonic, Charlie Clouser, Phylr, Ursula 1000, Kidney Thieves/Sean Beavan and Thirlwell himself. Foetus are currently on tour in the U.S. through July. - Mark Weddle
MANOREXIA, "VOLVOX TURBO"
Manorexia is J.G. Thirlwell, aka Foetus, and he is the sole person to blame for this 64 minute instrumental suite. "Volvox Turbo" is a soundtrack for ... something. A psychodramatic thriller? A good/bad night's sleep? An acid trip gone horribly right/wrong? All of the above? Yes. Here Thirlwell engages in experimental territory similar to some of the work of former collaborators Coil and Nurse With Wound, merging together 14 varied and indexed movements. Excepting a handful of prescribed panic attacks, much of the journey is a surreal sort of subdued ambiance comprised of strings, horns, flutes, tinker bells, drone, line noise and found sounds. Juxtaposed within are bits of ethnic travelogue such as the gypsy swirl of "Helicobra", Hawaiian fire dance of "Tiki Envy" and rain forest atmosphere intro of "Tubercular Bells". The mood gradually shifts gears multiple times from smooth and soothing to tense and climactic, artfully amusing to deadly serious, cherubic to downright menacing. It's really a rather stunning piece of work, an antithesis of the latest Foetus album "Flow" but equally interesting, and more proof of Thirlwell's multifaceted abilities. "Volvox Turbo" is available at the Foetus shows through July or foetus.org. - Mark Weddle
beneath autumn sky, "enki-dus mono" ep
This debut Beneath Autumn Sky EP on Hefty is five tracks of phat beats, wondrous melodics, and fulfilling bass. While it's noted that B.A.S. have come from a lifestyle of B-boyin, squatting, and living outside the boundaries of normal society, they have created what seems to me like a beautifully crafted mixture of old school sounds and new-school technique. It "keeps it real" on every level I could think of, and while I listen, the world around me seems to shapeshft into a land of wild landscapes and infinite possibilities.
"Spy Headings," the first track, is rich with sweet beats that aren't just loops which get stale over the course of five minutes. A stuttery breakdown and a beautiful piano sample transforms the atmosphere of the song into something brand new and its off into the sunset from there. Similarly, the following tracks have an evolving quality, appropriately transforming over time, all of which make for excellent active listening. My favorite track, "Zealots Awaken," which is seemingly fantastic at first, opens with some sort of medieval, middle-eastern sound mixture backed by a key hip hop break. It's a dimension of eternal balance where it is early evening in the summertime and the horizon is a contrast of the setting sun and the starry, moonlit night to come. The track doesn't stay that way, though, morphing into a Bond-era spy soundtrack, ending before the last escape scene.
Every track on this EP is unique and refreshing. 'Enki-Dus Mono' is a like a mini-soundtrack to an alternative fantastic world that only an imaginative and brave few ever get a glimpse of. - Matt Howell
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 of a misnomer: its twenty-odd minutes of dark and achey love songs never reach the rolling twang of other Oldham or the thundering gallop of some Dirty Three. Not much gettin' on or jolliness here. Instead, the album reverberates with sonorous, swelling sprinklings of trembling guitar, organ, and Oldham's plaintitive vocals, all steeped in country-flavored ambience. Reverb is used liberally and to stunning effect, drawing out the subtley shifting layers of instrumentation and filling out the simplicity of their arrangement. Percussion (mostly cymbals) is only used on one track, and sparingly. Lyrically, as well as musically, 'Get on Jolly' rouses the pangs in the bones and ache in the chest of any dramatic and dreary rainy day. Pain and desire inspired by unobtainable or unexplainable beauty, loves absent or misplaced, slowness and longing all are significant themes on this disc. Despite (or maybe because of) the simplicity of Oldham's lyrics, a slightly odd turn of phrase deals a stunning blow. In "2/15" Oldham sings praises of a woman who seems out of his reach: "hidden in the heart of things you make flowers into edible things" and "in the arms of 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 for this impressive, intricate EP is: too short! - Diane Lewis
neotropic, "la prochaine fois"
London-based electronic artist Riz Maslen has taken on a new journey with the brilliant new Neotropic package. 'La Prochaine Fois' [the next time] might not officially be a concept album but is sure is conceptual in nature. The disc is an adventure, a journey further away from the stereotypical post-hop sounds of Ninja Tune and further away from her beefy low-end and repetitious sounds of yesteryear. One thing which remains contant however is her usage of external sound sources and minimalistic exploitation of music samples. I too had a journey this past week, taking her music along with me while I biked a long bike path, tuning out the external world and becoming more intimately acquainted with the music disc. My first reaction is the shock to all the beautiful guitar and other stringed instruments coloring the early portion of the disc. Included in the mix are various old world-sounding instruments, accordion, flute and naked drum kits. Riz also decided to delicately loop vocal samples from people like Jarboe [hey, James Izzo is even credited!] and Low, while employing guest musicians on nearly all of the other tracks. At times, the dynamic yet peaceful feel can be somewhat dub-like while other points could come fairly close to classical arrangements. In an almost complete contrast, the latter portion of the disc [sans the rap closer] is a rather anthemic soundtrack to a post-modern hippie's nightmare. On the whole, the music is very rich in sound, intricately woven together without drowning the listener with too many sources at one point. For those whose words get swallowed up at the sound of the disc or unable to make a physical journey using this as a soundtrack, a companion is included for us to watch! Disc 2 is a video collage of Riz's various travels. The visuals are nothing daring or explosive but it gracefully compliments the music well. - Jon Whitney with Matt Howell
MICHAEL O'SHEA, Michael O'Shea
One day in London town Gilbert and Lewis of Wire followed their ears to the 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 and musician who eschewed the trappings of fame and fortune to live his life day by day as he pleased. He found an old wooden box and made it his friend... With a few hammerings Mo Cara (Gaelic: My Friend) was born, a new instrument based on a hybrid of hammered dulcimer, sitar and an Algerian instrument he'd played on his travels, the Zelochord. Mo Cara had seventeen main strings underpinned by six more strings which gave it a profound resonance. Michael's playing was as much influenced by his interest in tabla rhythms and time spent learning the sitar whilst recovering from illness as his early infatuation with Irish folk stalwarts the Chieftans. His compositions are transcendent and evocative of magic and mystery. Gilbert and Lewis recorded the album on a day when Michael's horoscope was propitious and everyone in the 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 with six additional tracks is the twelfth and (almost) final WMO release and is a wonderful ending for the Wire related reissue / rarity label. - Graeme Rowland
jet black crayon, "low frequency speaker test"
I walked in to see Tortoise at the Fillmore, unaware who the opening act was, as I had failed to do my research. I was late, and in a rush to see if I could find a great vantage point to observe the evening's entertainment. Suddenly, I was taken by the sounds emanating from the stage. The opening act had been playing for 20 minutes or so, and I had missed most of it. A deep bass groove was backed by competent, hard-hitting drumming, both of which were accompanied by occasional truntable flourishes. I rushed to the nearest Fillmore employee, and asked who this amazing act was. "jet black crayon," he replied, and my second question should say it all: "Where's the merchandise counter?" The only release jet black crayon currently have available, "low frequency speaker test" is an impressive EP from a band with a truly original sound. Two basses, drums, and a turntable make beautiful music, as the EP really gets underway on track 2, "tonic water," the track I heard that night at the Fillmore that made me want to find out who this band was. From the deep bass grooves on that track to the latin style beat and instructional samples of "the tree," jet black crayon impress and excel, creating a mood with each soundscape that is distinct and exciting. Principle members are Gadget behind the turntables, bassist Tommy Guerrero, who has several solo albums including one with Gadget, slide bassist Monte Vallier, and drummer Tim Degaugh on skins real and electronic. Rumor has it they are currently recording their debut album, due later this year. Get in on the ground floor. Grab this EP, released last year, and prepare to be grooved. - Rob Devlin
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 might echo influences such as Sonic Youth, Jim O'Rourke, Eno and the minimalist composers but he gives his instrument a unique voice. Really he's up there alongside Robert Hampson and Christian Fennesz when it comes to new approaches to coaxing sublime sonic textures from that versatile six string thing. This might be why Touch have put this out in a Mego style card wallet which sits snugly alongside their Fennesz CD with the absurdly cumbersome title. Touch seem to be putting out some of their strongest ever releases in recent times, what with this and Phill Niblock. All we need now is a new Philip Jeck album to seal it! And speaking of Phill Niblock, it comes as no surprise that Toral has collaborated with the master of the drone. Anyway, to describe Toral's magical flights as ambience would be to do them a great disservice, but this is underwater moonlight music to drift and dream to. Perhaps the drone word is a deceptive one to use here as well, since he does hit the strings softly and these chiming patterns continually shift and expand. Now I'm off to look for his earlier albums on Moikai, Dexter's Cigar and Perdition Plastics. - Graeme Rowland
The Shins, "Oh, Inverted World"
Occasionally bands come along that sound like they don't belong in the our time. They are from a time 20 or 30 years previous, and they record music that thrills and excites because they sound THAT MUCH ahead of their time. The press release for this, the debut album by The Shins (under that band name, anyway), says "Face it. The band you've been waiting for all these years is The Shins." Indeed. Why does it feel like I've heard this album before, then? Don't get me wrong -- it's a fine 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 ways you'd want a rock band to be: great melodies, great vocal qualities, toe-tapping rhythms, and instrument interplay make for great pop songs with a post-punk sensibility. Guitar lines twang and jangle while harmonizing and mixing with keyboard and organ lines. Even the "ooh" vocals give you the feeling that this record was recorded in 1967, not 2000. The opening calm and then swell into "Caring Is Creepy" prepare you perfectly for the eclecticism that follows. There are songs that drive along, songs that skip, songs that plod, and even songs that make you want to dance the Trout. And the lyrics are precious, like on "New Slang": "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 record to lay back and identify cloud shapes to. Comfortable, sweet, endearing, poppy as all hell, The Shins are here to stay, and thank goodness. We need more bands like this one. Please. - Rob Devlin
nurse with wound, "thunder perfect mind"
One of the ironies of the music of Nurse with Wound is the fact that while Steven Stapleton rarely releases something untouched (hence different versions of CD, cassette and LP editions), he's continuously recycling older materials. This month, a newly packaged version of 1992's "Thunder Perfect Mind" is available, promised with new artwork and a new remix of "Cold". While TPM was billed as the sister album to C93's one of the same name, the two are musically unrelated. The first half of the original CD is "Cold," 23+ minutes of a choppy looped riff with loads of found sounds pasted in as effects or rhythmically matched, like the recurring glockenspiel sample which has appeared many times, reminding me vaguely of a Jaques Berrocal piece whose name I'm blanking on. "Colder Still" set the grounds for what was soon to become the played out rhythms and interworkings on both NWW albums 'Rock 'n Roll Station' and 'Who Can I Turn To Stereo?' but on TPM, however, the sound is deep, sparse and is beautifully drawn out to a solid 32¾ minutes. "Colder Still" begins thunderous and moves through various chilly and captivating moments throughout the duration, much like a surrealistic acid-trip influenced horror film score. It is indeed a trip. The Miss Ticker mix of "Cold" is this edition's bonus musical addition 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 name and 'Crumb Duck' CD edition). It's got more grumblings, squeals, EKG sounds, drills, chainsaws and breaking bits, but once you hear that signature repetitious riff, the similarities take more promenance. Of all the versions this song has taken, "Miss Ticker" is now my favorite as it's the least irritating, most varied and includes a cute voice mail message from John Balance tagged on at the end. As for the new artwork promised in the press release, it's just a digipack with the same old booklet. - Jon Whitney
throbbing gristle, "first annual report" & "grief"
Two other reissues of brainwashed interest arrive in stores this week courtesy of Thirsty Ear. These two discs are perhaps the first and most circulated TG bootleg CD releases. 'Very Friendly: The First Annual Report' used to come with a clear warning on the back stating this wasn't "another live album," but studio recordings from 1975 which pre-date their first LP release, 'Second Annual Report'. The music in fact does sound like a very high quality live bootleg recording. Either it's the primitive recording gear they may have had or the limitations of the source, however it was delivered to the person who first pressed the LP. 'Grief,' on the other hand is two 23+ minute tracks, with a collage of sounds from numerous TG releases underscoring taped radio interviews and spots, completely undocumented and unbeknowest who the responsible party was who created this. Both CDs were first released at some point in the 1990s from a record label curiously named 'Terroristes Genetiques', both appeared to be recorded directly off the bootleg LPs which also surfaced under mysterious circumstances back in the 1980s. Strangely enough, the most legit label that has published editions of these releases, Thirsty Ear, has issued these discs with even shiftier packaging jobs completely void of all the newspaper clippings and drawings the others had, replaced by a flimsy-papered photocopied cover and booklet with blank white pages. The music however isn't up to par with the official studio albums TG recorded between 1977 and 1981 not shocking for bootleg releases so the market remains in the hands of collectors, who would most likely own these things by now already. So what's the point? - Jon Whitney
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 previous moniker Slaves. I listened to the album five times, all the way through, before I even tried to write one line of this review. But nothing 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" band for me. The musicians are certainly competent, and the songs unique enough, 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 piano breakdown in the middle, and "Meet Me In Eternity" is a classic rock-out anthem when it gets going, with singer/piano player Andrew Rothbard sounding like a mix of Greg Dulli, Jon Petkovic, and Andrew Wood. The album's closer, "Opalescence," is the best track on the album, mostly because it's just the right length. Some on this release go on much farther than they should. It's not a bad album at all. It just does nothing for me. Fans of The Afghan Whigs, Cobra Verde, and T. Rex will love the swagger Pleasure Forever pull off. It is impressive when they get to rocking, because they pull out all the stops. And I wanted to like the record, and had plenty of chances to. It's just not for me. If you like any of the bands I've mentioned, and you'd like to hear an album of good rock songs with a piano base, try Pleasure Forever. You'll like this record. It's good, it really is, and deserving of a listen, especially in the time and climate of rock radio that we're in (I'd rather hear Pleasure Forever on the radio than Creed any day of the week). Try it on. Seriously. - Rob Devlin
We know that sometimes these CDs are somewhat challenging to find, which is why we have a community section which can be used to obtain nearly everything available on this site.
FOETUS - 6/9, GYPSY TEA ROOM - DALLAS, TX
Foetus rocked! I wasn't expecting Thirlwell to be quite so thin, having never seen him in person before. He's like a cross between an elf, a hippie and Satan. On crack. He was decked out in a super tacky long sleeve shirt, light blue '70s jeans with purple patch on back pockets and black elf boots. It really works on him. There was zero banter with the crowd (75 maybe?) but he did motion for us to come closer. Thankfully there were no openers. Foetus played from a little after 11 to 12:30 with 2 encores. Songs I'm certain of, in no particular order: The Need Machine, Mighty Whity, Quick Fix, Mandelay, DI-19026, Friend or Foe, Take it Outside Godboy, Kreibabe and English Faggot. English Faggot was particularly amazing, the end being extended for many, many minutes into a tense SWANS-like climax. The band - guitar, bass, keyboards, drums - were really into it and tight. JG paced around, rolled his eyes back in his head, made faces, raised his arms up in a crucified position often, constantly messed with his hair and did various motions in time with beats. He straddled the main speaker stage right for one song and stood on it for another, chanting '666' over and over then leaped off. They were all energetic but JG was, of course, the Master of Disaster.
Merchandise: 3 t-shirts (girls baby t, 2 "Flow" designs) for $15 apiece, a 12" featuring Thirlwell for $6 and the Manorexia "Volvox Turbo" CDs for $13. - Mark Weddle
UZ JSME DOMA
Thursday, June 14, 2001: I convince a friend to join me at the Middle East Club to hear Reverend Glasseye and His Wooden Legs, one of my favorite Boston area bands. As usual, they were fabulous, but the big surprise that night was Uz Jsme Doma, the headliners on the bill. How could I have never heard of this amazing band from the Czech Republic? I was blown away by the many textures of their music, as well as their energy and technique. I'd call them prog rock with the speed and energy of punk, plus doses of traditional Slavic sounds, a bit of dark waltz gloom, and other unusual flavors. You can find more reviews at their web site, www.uzjsmedoma.com.
Feeling silly that I hadn't heard them before, I purchased several of their CDs that evening [don't forget to support your favorite underground bands by buying their merchandise at their shows! The band gets a bigger cut of the sale price when you buy directly from them.] I picked out three CDs: In the Middle of Words, Hollywood, and their latest, Ears. They're all wonderful recordings, and they played songs from each of these CDs at the concert. Go see Uz Jsme Doma! They're touring North America through 7/15/01 -- click here for tour dates.- Amper Sandy