Trans Am, "TA"
Man, I am so upset. I usually run out and buy Trans Am albums the day they come out (the only band I do that with!), but their latest album is SO terrible, SO wretched, SO miserable, that I am actually angry. Personally offended, even. That the band would have the audacity to publish this crap colors my experience of all the other Trans Am albums. It's depressing! It appears that the irony that has always lurked in the background of previous albums is the only quality present here. "TA" is entirely reference: "We like OMD, wink wink... overblown MOR rock is funny, wink wink... I'll bet a rap in Spanish would be a ridiculous thing to include on one of our records, yuk yuk". A parody is potentially fine, as long as it offers something deeper than what it initally appears to be. "Future World", for instance, was certainly a Kraftwerk reference, but it's also a great album in its own right. "Red Line" referenced Suicide, but it didn't end there. The Van Halen-like rock-out sections of all the previous albums work because the band REALLY IS rocking out, and the Stewart Copeland-esque drum workouts worked precisely because they used the Police as a starting point on the way to something new. But "TA" is useless. As a joke, it's a thin one. If it's an intentionally unfunny joke, then it fails as that, too. When a band starts writing songs that sound like Loverboy, they are only as good as the context; so when the context is merely a knowing wink, it's pretentious, it's instantly dated ("remember that time when it was funny to sound like Loverboy?"), and the songs still just sound like Loverboy. Sure, there have been entire albums that succeed as parodies of popular genres (the Residents' "Third Reich n' Roll" springs to mind, as does Neil Young's "Trans") and hold up decades after they are published, but this isn't one of them. As a suddenly-former Trans Am fan, I feel ripped off and insulted. They were the one band that I've been sure to catch at every tour, whose albums and concerts I anticipate. This latest album doesn't appear to be "good" on any level. Bye bye, Trans Am... hello Trans Awful. - Howard Stelzer
Chris Carter - Electronic Ambient Remixes 3
Chris Carter must have ears like no-one else. The fact that his last album (EAR 1) sounded nothing like its original source (1979's groundbreaking 'The Space Between') must attest to this. It just shows how important he actually was to Throbbing Gristle.
Many of the original TG songs he has 'remixed' often had a paralysing sense of claustrophobia that could have been down to the 8-track media, but more likely to the result of 4 intent people trying to find their way through listener's ear. Now Carter has removed the elements of three of them, and gives his original programming and synth trackswhich could have often stood on their own from their density and richness of soundhuge spaces to breathe. Dub-like drones of subsonic bass appear occasionally, robotic 4/4 rhythms become ludicrously complex polyrhythms, the whole album constantly exhales where the original songs hold or hyperventilate. 'Indisciplined' is the best example; the pounding, staccato rhythm of the original is melted and re-shaped into an Aphex-esque pulse-ridden aria.
I half-suspected while I listened to this that maybe Carter thought that some TG fans wouldn't be so keen on the project, so he's re-titled the songspossibly as a comment on people's attitude's to TG, or just to remind us that he has a sense of humour too. - Terry McGaughey
VOLCANO THE BEAR, "GUESS THE BIRDS"
For connoisseurs of uncommon music the Lactamese 10" series from Portland based Beta-Lactam Ring Records has been quite a treat. The dozen records, each limited to 500 copies, come on direct metal mastered audiophile vinyl so they sound as great as they look. 'Guess The Birds' is the 8th installment and surely one of the most anticipated. It's of an attractive dim gray vinyl and comes with a Dada meets Dali cover, big glossy inserts, signed art postcard and label stickers. Dada meets Dali is probably a good way to describe VTB's music too. Track titles will give you some idea: "Urchins At the Harp", "There In the House of the Moon", "Millipede for the Little Boy", "All the Paint I Can Breathe". The six tracks are relatively subdued and somewhat sluggishly unfold. Sounds include ambient shuffling about, some odd vocalizations and intercom talk, snoring, electronics and plenty of blown, bowed, plucked and struck stuff. Arabic overtones are present on a few songs thanks to vocal wailing, contemplative droning and percussion pastiche. Yes, it's uncommon music alright, but it's far from difficult listening. In fact, it's rather pleasant and always interesting. Coming soon is 'The Mountains Among Us' LP, also from Beta-Lactam.- Mark Weddle
SKALPELL, "IN BETWEEN"
Damn that title! I keep reminiscing irrelevantly about the days of Robert Smith's big hair for some reason, and gosh darn if the first Ocsid didn't beat 'em to it anyhow! Remember that dream you're always having where you're being fucked up the ass with a candle and then Genesis P. Orridge walks in and pulls it out and licks off the shit and buggers you with a twenty foot ceremonial dong whilst mincing baboons are whistling tunes in the jungle and morbid angels sing death hymns to charred homonculi? Well this CD might just be the perfect soundtrack! And if it's not then might I recommend you seek out the blue version of V/Vm's 'Good Things'?
Released by the appropriately titled Deafborn label, this Skalpell CD pursues harsh looped noise that owes a large debt to industrial pioneers, but shifts it all up a gear with modern computer edits. This is immense and as cutting as the bastard spawn of a sharp surgical instrument should be. Facts? Who needs 'em? OK, OK, its a couple of Swiss fellas called Harry and Henry who are just trying to symbolise the suffering and disease of the 'mentally over-evoluted human race' (as one does). The kind of thing you can hear down local bars near where I live, but maybe not where you live so maybe you'll need to surrender to the ebola mindscrape and the raging fires of stomach cancer encoded into this small chunk of aluminium. Skalpell are available for frozen microbe apocalyptic nightmares, deadings and far hiss shards. I daresay it could put a swell in the leather jodhpur of Boyd Rice! Prolonged exposure to this noise may well encourage cancer cell growth. - Graeme Rowland
Girl Talk "Secret Diary"
Let's get this out of the way right now - the music of Gregg Gillis's alter ego "Girl Talk" is a direct descendant of the idea begun with Kid606's 'Attitude' compilation - violently cut-up and processed hip-hop songs and top 40 hits, a digital blender of blatant copyright infringement. Now that I've made that comparison, I'm going to try and not mention Kid606 again, and instead focus on the positive. In less than forty minutes, the ten tracks on this disc disembowel everything from Destiny's Child to the New Kids on the Block to Cyndi Lauper to the Price Is Right theme, and the result is admittedly, pretty damn funny - for instance, splicing Joan Osborne together with some hip hop track that I'm not hip enough to recognize, to create "What if God was / One that don't give a fuck?" or "All the prophets / Gave me head behind the wheel" and other adolescently clever reconstructions. Gillis is at his best when he lets the humor overrule the desire to simply make noise, and he's got that humor in spades. Since most of the tracks are rooted in overprocessed sound, listening to the entire disc can get a littile grating, and at the worst, a little boring; one of the reasons 'Attitude' was so damn good was because it had a strong theme (N.W.A worship/destruction), the 14 artists each had a different approach, and, most importantly, it was short and sweet. (Technically, I'm not mentioning Kid606 here...oops i just did). But even if the disc is a little long, Gillis mans his laptop (or whatever) fairly well, and there are a few really worthwhile moments - like "Jumpin[g]," a 3-minute "de-mix" of Destiny's Child that (I'm really sorry) echoes Kid606's "Straight Outta Compton." And the first track, "Let's Start This Party Right," is pretty hilarious in it's opening sample (which I won't give away, but check out the clip below). - Nate Smith
le fly pan am, "ceux qui inventent n'ont jamais vécu (?)"
For their third release, this Montreal-based quartet continue to boldly try and walk the seldom-attempted line between improvisational noise and instrumental jam band antics. There's a good reason why this line is seldom attempted. Their noise skills aren't quite up to anything of interesting note yet while the backing the bassist and drummer provide rarely, if ever, stray from the monotonous one-bar melodies repeated ad nauseam. It's almost as if I'm listening to a high school band before they split in half, with the rhythm section forming a funk outfit and the guitarists heading off to art school. Maybe I'm being a bit harsh here, and in fact I wouldn't run screaming from the ice cream shoppe if it was playing on their speakers, but there is a strong need for a dominant focal point: a lead instrument. Even a rhythmic vocalist or feverent trumpet could move this album from the "interesting" category to actually being enjoyable. More than that, the melodies really need a bit of a forward motion so it doesn't feel like I'm in a running car whose tires are spinning in place. They're onto something, however. The drones, found sounds and tape recordings build decent atmospherics but post-production audio editing and digital manipulations aren't very compelling. The energy levels are high but too much repetition resigns this album to being sonic wallpaper for a mindless aerobicise session or fixing dinner in a hurry to. Chop chop, click click glitch, gotta run! - Jon Whitney
Denali reportedly formed after the decision of singer Maura Davis not to pursue an education in opera. She had some songs she'd been working on, it seems, and she came to her brother, bass player Keeley Davis, to help her flesh them out. And flesh them out he did; and with drummer Johnathan Fuller and guitar player Cam Dinunzio, the foursome became Denali, a name derived from the Athapascan word for Mt. McKinley, not the GMC truck. The band has so enamored audiences and musicians alike, and for their debut they were joined by Alan Weatherhead on the engineering side, and Mark Linkous on producing two tracks (both from Sparklehorse). The results are worthy of praise for a debut record. Opera's loss is rock's gain, as Maura Davis' vocals are empassioned, soaring, like an indie rock Bjork, while she pains away on Rhodes piano or guitar. The band certainly knows how to use samples well, as the eeriest qualities on the album are created around them ('Relief' and 'Function'). It's where the band rocks out that the sound truly comes together. On 'Gunner,' Maura's voice takes on a near Jeff Buckley quality, as the band produces soaring, glorious music below her. It is the apex of the release, and it is her voice that drives these songs, but the band is not to be discounted. The elder Davis adds capable backing vocals on most tracks, too, and his bass combined with Fuller's drums make for a rousing, driving rhythm section. There isn't a bad track here, and not one below the three-and-a-half minute mark. Davis' lyrics prove just as haunting as her voice: on 'Function' she wails 'Something strange is coming'; and on 'Gunner' she's going to 'get you before you get me.' It's horrbily affecting music, and with Denali on a west coast tour in June, I look forward to seeing how it translates live. I'll have to settle for the CD until then, and I suggest you do, too. - Rob Devlin
JOHN YOUNG, "LA LIMITE DU BRUIT"
The title translates as 'The Edge of Noise' which is very appropriate as this New Zealand based electroacoustic composer takes the everyday sounds of swings, rainfall and breath through magnified journeys and thorough transformations. The inherent noise in all these sounds is honed and clarified to its limit and then stretched and pulled into new elastic shapes, but there's always a compositional rigour and exactness that keeps this far from chaotic onslaught.
"Pythagoras's Curtain" starts with what sounds like chalk on a blackboard colliding with door knocks. Lots of creaking, low squeaking and rustling follow, panning from speaker to speaker. The sounds are deployed with precision and meticulous attention to stereo picture detail. Sudden drones burst out and rupture against nature. The title refers to the way in which Pythagoras would lecture from behind a curtain and draws a parallel to the way in which acousmatic music requires deep attentive listening divorced from other senses. Similar brutal yet focused transformations occur in the other pieces. "Inner" takes sharp intakes of breath and overly dramatic exhalations on an asthmatic nightmare trip which opens up gaping windswept canyons from the human lung before collapsing it into wheezing asphyxia and abstracted whirling vortices. There's a very claustophobic feel to much of this breathscape. "Virtual" takes recordings of wind through a similar if predictably more violent ride, but the feeling here is of open vastness. The squeaking swing that "Time, Motion and Memory" hinges on instantly recalls Pierre Henry's 'Variations Pour Une Porte et Un Soupir' but takes on forms far beyond the capacity of old tape splicing, as Young reimagines the swing as a giant pendulum cutting back and forth through other environmental sounds. There's a thick fog of nostalgic childhood memory gathering for the most moving and haunting track here. It's soon washed away by the rain falling from the "Liquid Sky," in crisp drenched drain swilling eddies. This is perhaps the most varied and violent track by default as the different surfaces that rain hits flood wide sonic spectra. Through academic studio alchemy enabled by Empreintes Digitales, John Young makes explicit the drama and strangeness of everyday sounds, and draws deep shadows in the spaces between them. - Graeme Rowland
Alio Die & Mathias Grassow, "Expanding Horizon"
To start off on a blunt foot, this album was probably not worth the $30 I paid for it. My expectations were high - Alio Die, whom I regard as an ambient guru, a new sublabel of Amplexus ("Weird" Amplexus ... clever, huh?), "special packaging" (which ended up being a foldout cover with three inserts), etc. etc. So I was hyped up. I eagerly snatched it up at an exorbitant limited-double-vinyl-import-price from Soleilmoon, and though it's certainly a competent album, it's probably not what I expected-slash-hoped for. This is a very repetitive album - all the songs are based upon more or less the same formula: infinitesimally quiet-but-slowly-loudening drones accompanied by occasional light percussions or drifting melodies and samples. This isn't necessarily a bad thing... but I ached for something somewhat different. Despite the repetition, it's all pulled off quite well - the album is very soothing and meditative and some of those drones resonate beautifully. But the album leaves me wanting more... especially for $30. It ends in precisely the same way it began. If you're a real hardcore fan of this stuff, you might want to grab it, but if you need a little variation in your ambience, be wary. - Chris Zaldua
Pedro the Lion, "Control"
The increase in one-man bands in recent years is staggering, and not just because the advent of technology makes it possible. It's also staggering because so many of them are so good. David Bazan tried Pedro the Lion as a full band, but eventually opted to do it all himself. On "Control," Pedro the Lion's third full-length, Bazan is joined by Casey Foubert, and the songs are more powerful and raw than anything the band has recorded yet. Bazan's lyrics continue to improve, and on "Control" he examines the affect of modern life on human relationships in different scenarios. It's been opined in various publications (and on the Jade Tree Bulletin Board - Pedro the Lion's label) that these songs greatly reflect Bazan's Christianity, and that such beliefs should not be present in music of the indie punk genre. They couldn't be more wrong. True, the opening lyrics of the album describe a person who cannot divorce their mate, but that doesn't necessarily have to be the profession of Christian beliefs. This album is all about the failure of modern culture, and how that failure affects our dealings with others. Corporate structure is taken to task on the back-to-back power hit of 'Penetration' and 'Indian Summer' - "If you aren't moving units then you're not worth the expense' and 'If it isn't penetration, then it isn't worth the kiss' on the former, with talk of kids being taught early to love the taste of 'corporate cum' on the latter. The seemingly chemical breakdown of the family unit is examined on more than one track, but the most frightening is 'Rehearsal,' where the narrator chooses to make his lover pay for her motel meetings with another rather than break it off with her ("You are so unoriginal/You'll see that I can be so unoriginal just like you"). It's a big step for Pedro the Lion, one that will hopefully remove the stigma associated with them and increase their audience. - Rob Devlin
MARY MARGARET O'HARA, "APARTMENT HUNTING" SOUNDTRACK
I may as well admit this before I go on: Miss America is one of my favourite records of all time. I remember I saw her perform as part of Nick Cave's Meltdown two years ago. I got so excited when she came onstage that I shouted "Mary - I miss you!!". She replied "Well, I don't miss you...I see you every day." That probably tells us a little of the expectation she has felt in the intervening 15 years since Miss America, and why she has chosen to put this out as a soundtrack rather then a 'proper' album.
But all the elements that made Miss America so incredible are all there; Rusty McCarthy's pristine, Derek Bailey-like guitar playing; odd time signatures that shift and pull like Miles Davis; and that voiceswooping upwards, catching in her throat, gibbering and crooning like Billie Holiday crossed with Patti Smith.
The most stunning tracks on the album are the most conventional; 'Never Came Back' swings like 'Shiny Beast'-period Beefheart with O'Hara doing her most conventional singing yet. The song then promptly disintegrates into a lose and limbre jazz shuffle, and O'Hara begins a slow crescendo of manic scatting. 'Scary Latin Love Song' is O'Hara in dementia mode; over a hyperventilating Ozomatli-type Latin groove, she gibbers in Hispanic, squawks, shrieks and then calms down. The album is pervaded with a 'Taxi Driver' sense of disquiet, and it's only once -- on the joyous 'Have You Gone', where the Leningrand Cowboys meets Patsy Cline -- that there's sense of resolution. Then it closes with the ludicrous 'Hello Yellow Goose', with O'Hara's voice distorted beyond recognition over what sounds like Shock Headed Peters.
Welcome back Mary. - Terry McGaughey
Spokane, "Able Bodies"
Word to the wise: do not listen to this, Spokane's fourth release, if you are already depressed. It will make it worse. Seriously. It's a fine record, with gorgeously simple guitar work, minimalist drumming, and sinewy strings featuring two members of the string section of Papa M. But it is not a cheery record in any means. "Able Bodies" seems to want to convey the strain of the average man - the worker who slaves all day long for not much pay, and goes home at the end of the day to a meager existence in a substandard housing project. It is a haunting work, capable of raising chills in many areas as well as burying you in its beauty. The vocal harmonies and staccato strings on 'Quiet Normal Life' lead you down a deceptive path, making you think the whole track will be airy, cold. Shortly after their appearance, though, the track gets more spirited, more uplifting, and the drums and strings spring forward with an almost wanton pace. It's not a shocking twist, but it is a welcome one. And there's a similar break in the languid pace on the fifth track, 'In Houses,' which moves along at an even pace. But besides that, it's a very mellow affair. Not that it's a surprise for Spokane releases to be this maudlin. The only departure here is the spooky nature of the majority of these songs. But the addition of the strong section does give an added punch to these proceedings, allowing Karl Runge to concentrate on violin, while Ben Swanson relieves Rick Alverson and Courtney Bowles, of vibraphone duties. Spokane's most moving work, while also their most chilling, "Able Bodies" is a welcome addition to their already rich catalog, considering it's also their fourth release in two years. - Rob Devlin
DJ /Rupture, "Gold Teeth Thief"
It'd be easy to dismiss up-and-cummer DJ /Rupture as a product of the Tigerbeat6/Kid606/Ambush/DJ Scud/distortion/glitch/people-who-sample-Missy-Elliot hype scene. It'd be easy to say that he begins his CD with 'Get Ur Freak On,' goes through a Kid606 and Venetian Snares track followed by Cannibal Ox followed by Rude Ass Tinker's (Mike Paradinas's) reconstruction of 'U Can't Touch This' and say: yeah, he's just another one of the gang. Or say he's brilliant for subversively using popular hip hop in an underground-electronica mix CD. But the truth is a lot more complicated and interesting than that. The first glimpses of that truth can be had by looking at the complete tracklist on this, /Rupture's debut mix disc: a gamut of sounds which include the obligatory double-aforementioned Missy Elliot track, Nettle (Spanish breakcore on /Rupture's own label), musique concrete and contemporary classical, lots of ragga and rap (which I love in small doses, as it appears on this mix), the also-obligatory once-aforementioned reconstruction of an 80s/90s mainstream hit (Rude Ass Tinker), as well as large doses of traditional Indian and African samples and musics. And the whole thing ends with Muslimgauze-cum-Paul Simon-feat. Ladysmith-Black-Mambazo. So as much as anyone would like to, it's difficult to pigeonhole DJ /Rupture. That's not to say this mix doesn't have its weak moments - part A doesn't flow as smoothly as part B and the several-second dropout during Dead Prez's "Cop Shot" (which may or may not be intentional, it sounds rather like a mistake to my ears) is disruptive and annoying. Alas, these are but minor quibbles which don't tarnish an otherwise excellent and diverse journey through DJ /Rupture's musical oeuvre. (If you download/buy this mix and like it, be sure to watch out for his next mix, 'Minesweeper Suite,' on *grin* - wait for it - Tigerbeat6...) - Chris Zaldua
MANUELA KRAUSE + POLE, "MEIN FREUND DER BAUM"
Manuela Krause is a Berlin-based club DJ and vocalist for Copenenhagen's electro/jazz group Electrazz. Here she teams up with Stefan Betke, aka Pole, for this seriously thick 7" from Monika Enterprise. The A-Side is a cover of Alexandra's 1968 cult hit "Mein Freund Der Baum" (My Friend The Tree), a tune I'm sure Germans are infinitely more familiar with than I am. It's a pretty pop poem presented here by Krause's husky yet feminine vocal and Pole's elegantly refined production. Betke does a wonderful job of recreating the song with bass pulses and hi-hat, tastefully accentuated by dub melodica and effects. He really should consider a parallel career path in electro-pop. The "Balalaika" dub on the B-Side delves deeper and adds a bit of piano but isn't nearly as satisfying minus the vocal. A lovely little record well worth the five bucks. - Mark Weddle
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.
Bitstream - Crab Nebula 7" (City Centre Offices, Germany/UK)
Fort Lauderdale - Flux 1912 10"/CDEP (Memphis Industries, UK)
Jaki Liebezeit & Burnt Friedman - Secret Rhythms CD (Nonplace, Germany)
Manual - Ascend CD/LP (Morr Music, Germany)
Upper Rooms - Canti Popolari CD (Beatservice, Norway)
Susumu Yokota - Sound of Sky CD/LP (Exceptional, UK)
Blevin Blectum - Talon Slalom CD (Deluxe, US)
Cul de Sac - Live @ WBRS CD (Strange Attractors, US)
Greg Davis/Don Mennerich - split 7" (Autumn, US)
Diagram of Suburban Chaos - Status Negatives CD (Imputor?, US)
Early Day Miners - Let Us Garlands Bring CD/2xLP (Secretly Canadian/Western Vinyl, US)
* Fridge - Eph 2xCD [reissue with bonus disc of rare/unreleased tracks] (Temporary Residence/Brainwashed, US)
Icon of Coil - The Soul is in the Software CD (Metropolis, US)
Oneida - Each One, Teach One 2xLP (Version City, US)
Planetarium Music - Traditional Psychedelic Electronic Music: Planet 2 CD (Strange Attractors, US)
Racebannon - Satan's Kickin' Yr Dick In Pts. 1 & 2 7" (Secretly Canadian, US)
Rope - Fever CDEP (Family Vineyard, US)
San Augustin with Suzanne Langille - Passing Song CDEP (Family Vineyard, US)
Sonna - Kept Luminesce/Mirameko CDEP (Temporary Residence, US)
Spokane - Able Bodies CD (Jagjaguwar, US)
St. Thomas - I'm Coming Home CD (Misra, US)
Swearing At Motorists/Spoon - split 7" (Super Asbestos, US)
Thee More Shallows - Thee More Shallows CD (Megalon, US)
Trans Am - T.A. CD/LP (Thrill Jockey, US)
Tom Waits - Alice CD (Anti/Epitaph, US)
Tom Waits - Blood Money CD (Anti/Epitaph, US)
Yume Bitsu - The Golden Vessel Of Sound, Part 4; The Moths Of Ruin And The City In The Sky 2xLP (K Records, US)
Fanny - Fear & Loathing For Dummies CD (Mirex, Germany)
Black Lung & Xingu Hill - The Andronechron Incident CD (Ant-Zen, Germany)
Daiphlux - mbrnjnftr CD/LP (Aim, Belgium)
Sonic Dragolgo - Sweet Pain 7" (Mirex, Germany)
This is simply this week's highlights from the NEW RELEASES provided by Greg and Feedback Monitor.
I8U - grasshopper morphine CDR [limited to 311 copies] (Piehead, Canada)
David Kristian - My Three Suns CDR [limited to 311 copies] (Piehead, Canada)
Teknostep - Music for Short Attention Spans CD (nice+smooth, Canada)
Teknostep - Feeling 12" (nice+smooth, Canada)
For a more detailed schedule stretching into the future, please check out the site,
since release dates can and will often change.