Gold Chains / "Straight from your radio"
Orthlong Musork / Tigerbeat6
If Cex is the laptop incarnate of Kool Keith, then Gold Chains must be the equivalent of Sisqo. The first I heard from San Franciscan Topher Lafata (the brains behind the chains) was "Burn Babylon" from the Tigerbeat6 Inc. compilation last year. It featured sung vocals from a miss Nina Oppenheim and actually had no rap on it. However, the undeniable sass pulsing from that fat, pumpin' jam made me long for more. If that's your only exposure, do not expect a similar club smash on the first two EP releases from Gold Chains, do expect that rawkus attitude and some phenomenal programming. On the self-titled EP, Topher is accompanied by the production assitance from Joshua Kit Clayton, scratching from DJ Bre-Ad (who's credits include work with Mick Harris) and the occasional backing female vocalist. The result is far more dense than any Kit Clayton records and the rhymes are witty, entertaining and after a number of listens become drilled in the head, busting out when singing along. From the thunderous opener, "I Come From San Francisco," to the closing nod to Stereolab, "Rock the Parti", there isn't a weak moment. With each listen, there's actually something new to discover: "Did he say ebonic karate?" Jessica asked me during "The Wonderful Girls of Hypno" before the bombastic chorus sounds in, "San Francisco USA / to Berlin in Germany / Tokyo to Paris France / Hypno babes rule my pants". The self-titled EP came out last October and is a bit of a task to locate but it's well worth it.
Less than a year later, a second EP has surfaced from Tigerbeat6. Coming from such a strong, stunning debut, this release seems somewhat anti-climactic. The rhythms and tunes here are produced entirely by Tofer this time around and, while the songs are still punchy and energetic, are somewhat flattened by the lack of content. There's far less rap, and more repetitious vocals this time around. The sex and drug obsessions are way more explicit than the other EP, with tracks like "Mountains of Coke" and "I Treat Your Cootchie Like a Maze" ("Lick that cootchie, lick that cootchie, lick that cootchie,..." okay, we get the point). The titles seem more promising but maybe I was expecting a little more meat. 'Straight from Your Radio' isn't terrible by any means, and can still provide an entertaining 25 minutes, but is nowhere near as over-the-top as the eponymous debut. Slap all 11 tracks (and "Burn Babylon") onto one CD and you've still got a pretty strong full-length albm! - Jon Whitney
Fez Dispenser is Matt Thorne, one of two brothers that make up Psychic Enemies Network. With this project he dissolves the darkness and artfully expands upon the eclecticism already found in PEN's work. Fifteen instrumentals freely juxtapose played and programmed genre elements within tracks and track to track. But in the slick guitar riffs, vibes and grooves a jazz influence represents throughout. Thorne seems to be striving for songs that mix things up so much as to defy all pigeonholing and, more importantly, are just plain fun to play and listen to. Drum and bass backdrops the busy jammin' of "Thank You Would've Done Nicely" while horn-y dub and hazy dub make up "Castillian Fennel Dub" and "Really I Do", respectively. "Smoothin'" slips into overdriven overdrive with a stompin' spy thriller theme and "Watch for Falling Doors" percussively jazzes it up, both reminding me of Barry Adamson's recent imaginary soundtracks. Hip Hop beats and breaks add flava here and there, especially in "Everything Works", while the title track sets up camp near Muslimgauze territories. "He Speaks" dips into electronic whimsy a la The Orb with cute samples of helpful English phrases. "Lake Placidyl" offers a short-term treatment for insomnia with a slow moving quasi-psychedelic lullaby. And just to make absolutely sure I walk away happy, the lovely Stars of the Lid-like "And Fade" conjures up similar tired sounds as a finale. A little bit of everything goes a long way. - Mark Weddle
Radar Brothers, "And the Surrounding Mountains"
Radar Brothers create slo-core guitar music with almost saccharine vocals and harmonies on top, songs that explore a variety of subjects with aplomb and spirit. Members Jim Putnam, Senon Williams, and Steve Goodfriend have been in or worked with bands as diverse as Medicine, The For Carnation, Matmos and Maids of Gravity, and the music they create now makes them out to be a modern version of The Band. Everything is rooted in a melancholy beauty, but everything has a hope or dignity to it that breaks through and keeps you warm. In other words, these songs are not full of complicated arrangements or dense subject matter that will be lost on you. So the trick is to not bore the hell out of the listener, and to not sound entirely formulaic. Radar Brothers do this admirably on this, their third full-length and first for Merge, sounding familiar but not like they're copying someone, and making the most of their slight sound. Keyboards are added for effect, guitars fuzz and wail, and all while the music just lopes along. They do manage to be pretty chilling here, as well, as at least two songs deal with murder or savage killing: "They've been missing for a week/but here the weapon looks clean/too bad the older sisters are taking it home" on 'Sisters' and "for you are still evil in my sword you'll be caught" on 'Still Evil'. It's very cohesive, mostly quaint, and beautifully executed music from a band that has no business being based in Los Angeles. It is worth your time, I assure you. - Rob Devlin
Some of you may have Merzbow fans pegged as masochists. Sure, serfs loyal to the noise king may find his prodigious output hard on both the eardrums and the wallet. And true, he has played with S&M themes on several of his releases the 50 CD Merzbox is wrapped in kinky black rubber, for crying out loud. But the pleasure of Merzbow is not just the extreme volume and frequency with which he attacksbut the variety of sounds he sets his cat o' nine tails to. To the casual listener, the collective work of Merzbow may sound like a solid block of steel wool. I admit there are a couple of Brillo's in the pile, but no single Merzbow release can represent the whole catalog. Take Amlux, for example. While the trademark violent squall is still here, much of this album has a more gradual pace, built heavily on samples and loops. "Takemitsu" starts off as a ride inside a phonograph needle across a scratchy jackhammer lock-groove, while someone shovels snow in the background. It ultimately gets sucked through a jumbo jet engine, which proceeds to jam up and disintegrate. The warm tar guitar lines of "Looping Jane" get whipped by sharp digital wires into a driving rock frenzy. "Cow Cow" is Satan on CB Radio squelch through a teapot whistle. The final track, "Luxurious Automobile," pits swirling loops against chain rhythms, crickets, Star Trek consoles and Asteroids fuzz. It's almost danceable. If I had to pick out a good starting point for the uninitiated, I might very well recommend Amlux. - Jesse Nieminen
Merzbow/Kouhei Matsunaga split CD
Merzbow's split release with Kouhei Matsunaga finds Masami Akita taking up a slightly more aggressive posture than on Amlux. Pensive piano on "Nakasendow" is repeatedly interrupted as the man in charge tears metal phone books in half with his bare hands, then decides to start blowing new pockmarks into the moon with his laser cannon. The poor piano has no choice but to turn into a dot matrix printer. "Earth Nazareth" mangles a death metal riff with phased drum beats into an oompah band. Screechy violin joins in at about repetition 2000, just as a washing machine starts pumping through the wah wah pedal. The sub-bass swells and drums of "Shadow Barbalian" find a staticky midpoint between the rhythms of Tortoise and Brise Glace, with an abundance of strangled-tape samples popping up and getting punished. Very fun and quite catchy, if such can be said for Merzbow. A good counterpoint, Matsunaga's half of the disc spans many locations and elevations. A triptych entitled "Garden of Earthly Delights," the sounds here take on an almost spiritual feel. From quiet studies of steam-powered robot insects, to plodding machine bursts, to dramatic swelling drones and clipped sighs. Both pure sound and musical themes are explored and superimposed, and the three pieces work as one in an easily flowing series of movements. Certain moments here could be compared to the work of Merzbow, Christoph Heemann, Tetsuo Furudate, and others. But it's the successful marriage of such diverse elements into a cohesive work that makes it uniquely Matsunaga's. I will be keeping my eye out for more of this man's work in the future. A solid listen the whole way through, this disc will definitely enjoy more time in my stereo. - Jesse Nieminen
dntel, "(this is) the dream of evan and chan"
This song could easily be one of my favorite songs from one my favorite albums of last year: the fuzzy music of Dntel's rumbling frequencies and distorted beats matched with the timid, wistful vocals by Benjamin Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie (thankfully included as the first track on the EP) in a vividly visual story as surreal and dreamlike as the title suggests. This CD EP is set up like a traditional 12" single of four remixes sandwiched in between the A and B side of its own 7" single. While this approach works great for DJs or fans making their own mix tapes or CDs, listening straight through can be a bit of overkill. The first reinterpretation is probably my favorite: it comes from Safety Scissors, with the Kings of Convenience singer (Erlend Øye) slightly adjusting the lyrics into a moderately altered story. The music is bumpy and reminds me well of that Kings of Convenience remix record I adored last year. Barbara Morganstern almost uncomfortably forces a duet on her take while Superpitcher leaves the vocals just as they are, but transforms the song into a modern techno anthem a'la the Kompakt style. Lali Puna finish the job off by completely removing the vocals and softening the music into something more languid, laid back and cool. Rounding out the EP is the track "Your Hill" which was on the compilation 'The Asthmatic Worm' (reviewed in June), which would save any Dntel fan from having to buy an entire compilation for one song previously unavailable elsewhere. At the end of each listen, I can completely appreciate all the attempts at reinterpretations, but safely say that none can really touch the brilliance of this song in its original LP version. - Jon Whitney
John Rifle, "Fracas Nurture"
Rabbit Surgeon Musics
And from the "What the fuck is this?" file comes this CD from John Rifle. John Rifle is an enigma. He's obsessed with rabbits, as the album artwork shows, and pop culture, as the music shows. He's not happy with the way things are going in this world of ours, and he's taking action. Mostly minimal piano and drum-created music with sound samples on top, "Fracas Nurture" is a pretty strange and frightening listen, completely devoid of warnings or clearances. Most samples are taken from television source material like ABC News and VH1 Behind the Music, and the CD is assembled like one long radio broadcast from inside the mind of a lunatic. It's socially conscious, it's got its sights set on many different targets, including the music industry, fame, drug use and the media, and it's completely and totally out of its gourd. Never has sound collage music sounded this urgent, this driven, or this insane. It's like Negativland making the soundtrack for a reality TV/horror movie. Bob Weston recorded this music, and he has done an admirable job given how this material could drive anyone involved over the edge. Tom Waits once created a track like this with samples of Dan Rather, and this is like the dream that track touched upon fully realized. Occasionally the music takes on a real structure, like on 'Intercom', but not often. Mostly, it's spoken word performances, with a little music for good measure. It's a message, not exactly for the faint of heart, that has some music with it. It's a good project (can't really call it an album because it defies even that moniker), but needs to be absorbed in doses. This is too much for one sitting. Try it out, though, because it needs to be heard to be believed or understood. - Rob Devlin
KARE JOAO, "SIDEMAN"
Late twenty-something Kåre Pedersen was born in Brazil but raised in Norway where he became an integral part of the local scenes in various bands, probably most notably with Kåre & The Cavemen (aka Euroboys). A year after their split in 2000, Pedersen began work on 'Sideman', his solo debut. I've learned to expect the unexpected when it comes to music from Scandinavia. Yet I'm still a bit shocked by the catchy pop and rock hooks of Kåre's tunes (kinda like when I first opened the insert to discover him holding a gun to his head). Some reference points are easy: Spiritualized / Spacemen 3, psychedelic era Floyd and Beatles, The Cure, My Bloody Valentine, etc. Anders Borne's somewhat whiny vocals are a quickly acquired taste but Kåre's (and numerous Norwegian guests) multi-instrumentation is immediately pleasing to the ear. Solid drums and fat bass guitar propel the melodic grooves as they gather layers of guitar and atmospheric swirl. Subtle production highlights like piano, slide guitar, horns, bird song and running water exquisitely enhance the moods, often building up into a wonder wall of sound. The album feels musically happy and upbeat, even in the blues of "Channel Five". Wearing his heart on his sleeve, Bortne unabashedly confronts the confusion of love on "Sunshine Blues" and "Love Report". You gotta love the organ stabs, guitar soloing and Beach Boys-styled backing vocals of the infectiously giddy "Frank Furius". "Dark of Heartness" ends it all much like it began with "Captain Trips", a longer track with several minutes of ambient decay/growth. Just another nugget from the Nordic frontiers.
- Mark Weddle
tomas jirku, "entropy"
Over the last few years and few releases on Alien8, Substractif and Force-Inc., young Jirku has been pushing his music into deeper explorations into post-glitch electro-dub. On this, his fourth full-lengther, the sounds are simply phenomenal. Lazy beats, constructed from strong bass kick sounds and sharp high-end ticks perfectly compliment languid bass lines and simple keyboard loops. The same formula is repeated for different tracks of varying stylessome more upbeat, like the beefy "Isothermal," or the somewhat harsh, downbeat "Isobaric." Unfortunately, as is the case with all of his other albums, it goes on way too long. Around the half-way mark (36 minutes into the album), the fascination experienced from the opening tracks begins to fade and I long for coffee-shop conversation or heavily drug-induced chill-out room experiences. This could indeed be considered "head music" instead of body music, as with listening, there's strong voices in my head telling me to do various things like "Go for a bike ride, Jon;" "Work on your screenplays, Jon;" "Get a better sound system;" or the always popular, "Update some web pages, damnit!" - Jon Whitney
Imperial Teen, "On"
Imperial Teen started as the side project of Roddy Bottum, the keyboard player extraordinaire of Faith No More. It seemed, almost, that Bottum was desperately trying to explore some pop rock roots with the band, because although Faith No More had their own hits with 'We Care a Lot' and later with 'Epic', they were definitely not a pop band by any means. So, Imperial Teen began, releasing two albums that were seemingly well received by journalists and audiences alike. Now, however, the game plan has changed a bit. Faith No More are no more, and Bottum has nothing else to concentrate on, so the stops have been yanked out and the fun can begin. Hear me: "On" is Imperial Teen at their best, accentuating the pop sensibility while placing their own kitschy stank on it, and all the while seeming to present it all with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Yes, this is a band that knows not to take itself too seriously, but still plays out the favorites for the real fans. Things start strong on the CD, but really get underway by 'Million $ Man', showing the true colors of the discotheque moment well while including the flavor of the past. The presence and prescience of producer Anna Waronker (formerly of That Dog) is definitely felt, as the pop has a gloss that carries her signature. Not that the band is outdone or overshadowed by it: they have their own agenda. These songs are crisp, concise, and they make you tap your feet and sing out loud like the whole world was your shower. It's the perfect rock record for you to take to your summer cookout, and no one will criticize you for your personal choice of hot dog. If you don't believe me, check out the poppy sound samples for a little of that boy-girl harmony simplicity. More than likely not their best work, but certainly a step in the right direction. - Rob Devlin
Crowd Control Activities
It'll mostly be fans of Jarboe's contribution to the last few Swans
albums who'll want to get a hold of this. Although it is a collaborative
work, the music being created by John Bergin and Brett Smith (of
c17h19no3, Trust Obey and Caul), it's Jarboe who makes her presence felt.
The intention was to create a dark, minimal backdrop, over which Jarboe
would be let loose to do her worst.
This idea is where the album falls for me. After a few tracks it's
obvious the she's doing most of the work, letting the music become
distant, which, given how her vocals violently divide people, is a
dangerous idea. I wish sometimes that she could take a back seat, but
most of the music is uninspired and straightfoward...maybe their
keyboards are mysteriously broken in such a way as to only allow minor
chords to be played, who knows?
She is a strong and individual vocalist, and is on top form (lyrically
close to the later Swans stuff "..you suffocate me honey..you'll destroy
me, so now I lost you..") , but the unrelenting gloom seems synthetic and
quite forced in places.
There are some great moments, especially when they seem to be aware of
this and try different approaches, like the drifting, washy effects on
the opener " The Conversion-Silent", the multi-layered vocals on some
tracks, and the once or twice a real musical instrument pops up, but they
just highlight how a warmer, less clinical approach would have added the
much needed layer of depth. A tour de force for Jarboe fans, though I
just can't help thinking what could have been achieved had the music been
approached with the same vitality and inventiveness. - Bill Ryubin
Illusion of Safety, "Distraction"
Part of Staaplaat's rigorous CDR re-issue seres, Dan Burke's sonic mayhem
now can be yours at a reasonable price. As CDRs go, it's well produced
and not really distinguishable from a regular CD.
The title is apt, as the music is all over the place- in a good way.
It's a bombardment from start to finish, never really letting up, and
constantly throwing new ideas and snatches of sound at you. He must have
a warehouse somewhere filled with endless hours of tapes, and bits, and
reels of forgotten films.
Whereas any jackass with a sampler can throw endless cut-ups together
into and unearthly messy stew, it takes a fair amount of insight and
cohesion to get it to work right, knowing when to introduce what, or how
abstract sounds relate to each other. Dan Burke's the only musician I've
heard who uses volume as a musical instrument. It seems as important as
the choice of sounds, because he really knows how to build and keep up
tension, something which is maintained and holds the thing together. The
most unnerving things are the long field-recordings, or static bits, cos'
you can tell he's just waiting to puncture it with something
ear-shattering. Some of it does come-across like a horror-film, with the
director an old hand at knowing when to pull back and when to throw in
the surprises.- Bill Ryubin
Robin Storey & Victor Nubla, "About Breathing"
Good music of any kind is a product of taste and restraint. It doesn't matter if you're working with a single contact mic or a full orchestraif you lack taste and restraint, you won't end up with decent results. Unfortunately, this collaboration really lacks. I've enjoyed Storey's work in Zoviet France and Rapoon, so this was a let-down. A myriad of samples and loops are employed, so it's a bit perplexing to find an overwhelming sameness throughout. I think this arises from the fact that most of the loops seem identical in length, and resulting chunky rhythm confines it from ever going anywhere. Embarrassing cheesiness emerges in the poor attempts to inject a sense of place through the use of native music samplessort of like dark ambient's answer to world music. Also troublesome is the appearance of dated synth lines and choir voices. Poor sound quality plagues the whole thing, and really flattens the sound. But I'm not sure that fuller sound would make this any better. I would have enjoyed this much more had it been stripped to a more subtle, minimal approach. There are some interesting sounds here, but they are overwhelmed by the uninteresting ones. At least some restraint was shown in limiting this release to 500 copies. - Jesse Nieminen
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.
WEEK OF AUGUST 4 - AUGUST 10
This is simply this week's highlights from the NEW RELEASES provided by Greg and Feedback Monitor.
Ellen Allien/Various - Weiss.mix CD (Bpitch Control, Germany)
Dot Allison - Strung Out 12"/two CDEPs (Mantra, UK)
Aerial - So Warm CDEP (Bella Union, UK)
Louie Austen - Hoping Remixes 12" [mixes by Matthew Herbert, Jimi Tenor and Sugar B] (Cheap, Austria)
Autechre - Gantz Graf 12"/CDEP/CDEP+DVD [DVD includes videos for Graf, Second Bad Vilbel and Basscadet] (Warp, UK/US)
Blue States - Metro Sound 12"/CDEP (XL Recordings/Memphis Industries, UK)
Computer Soup/Jan Jelinek - Improvisations And Edits Tokyo, 09/26/2001 CD (Soup-Disk, Japan)
DJ Overdose - Trust Me 12" (Murder Capital, Netherlands)
Dalek - From Filthy Tongue Of Gods & Griots CD (Ipecac, US)
deGiere - Diffusion Chamber 10" [ltd to 500 copies on blue vinyl] (Emanate, US)
Diary of Dreams - Freak Perfume CD (Metropolis, US)
Diverse - Build 12" (Chocolate Industries, US)
Drexciya - Grava 4 CD (Clone, Holland)
Ellis Island Sound - Ellis Island Sound CD (Heavenly, UK)
Carl A. Finlow - Dangerous Devotion 12" (Meuse_Muzique, Holland)
Freeform - Late Surfaces 1990-2000 CDR [limited mail order release] (Freefarm, UK)
Future Sound of London present Amorphous Androgynous - The Isness CD (Artful, UK)
Golden - Apollo Stars CD/LP (Thrill Jockey, US)
JMX featuring Tikiman - Tikisong 12" (Life Enhancing Audio, Belgium)
Kid Loco - A Little Bit Of Soul 12" (Royal Belleville/Yellow, France)
Hakan Lidbo - Sexy Robot CD/2xLP (Lasergun, Germany)
Lusine icl/The Buddy System - split 7" (Awkward Silence, UK)
Magnetophone - Relax, it's the end of electronica 7" (Static Caravan, UK)
Mali Music - Mali Music CD (Astralwerks, US)
Jake Mandell - Crusty Effluvia 12" [with Monolake remix] (K2O, Germany)
K.K. Null/Bill Horist - Interstellar Chemistry CD (Beta-lactam Ring, US)
Pacman & Colongib - Pacman & Colongib 2 CD (Obtain Freedom, Japan)
Phasmid - Cooper Is On Bubbles CD [remix album with Pacifica, Mall, Octorock, Snospray, Headphone Science and more] (Skylab Operations, Austria)
Pilote - In A Nice Way 12" (Certificate 18, UK)
Primal Scream - Evil Heat CD (Sony, UK)
Process - Fiction 12" (Traum, Germany)
The Orb - Cool Harbour 12" (Shanachie, US)
Mark Rae - Lobster 12" (Grand Central, UK)
Rechord [Anders Tilliander] - Eloper 12" (Audio.NL, Netherlands)
Reynols - Pacallirte Sorban Cumanos CD (Beta-lactam Ring, US)
The Rootsman - Sort Me Out 10" (Third Eye Music, UK)
Otto Von Schirach - Pelican Moondance 12" (Schematic, US)
Seelenluft & The Silvercity-Bob Orchestra - Out Of The Woods CD (Klein, Austria)
Max Tundra - Lysine 12"/CDEP (Domino, UK)
Various - Critcal Mass Vol. 3 CD [with KMFDM, VNV Nation, Front Line Assembly, Haujobb and more] (Metropolis, US)
Various - Fluid Ounce Unmeasured CD (Fluid Ounce, UK - Ubiquity, US)
Various - Zentertainment 2002 CD [low-priced sampler] (Ninja Tune, UK)
Visitor [Mark Broom & Dave Hill] - Passing Through CD (D1, UK)
Wevie Stonder - Drawing On Other People's Faces CD/LP (SKAM, UK)
For a more detailed schedule stretching into the future, please check out the site,
since release dates can and will often change.