Scorn, "Plan B"
Mick Harris has helped to define more genres than many artists can claim to have released respectable albums. From his longest running moniker, Scorn, devotees have come to expect a certain formula: mix equal parts sparse electroacoustic ambience with driving, fractured breakbeats. Add woofer-thrashing bass frequencies and spoon out with a dash of painfully dry humor. Scorn's work has been one of a gradual stripdown of all that was non-essential on early albums like Colossus and Evanescence, and the move towards minimalism has alienated many in its wake. Scorn's last full length for Hymen, the blisteringly straightforward 'Greetings From Birmingham' showed that Harris had all but exhausted the possibilites with dead slow beats and low-end rumble. With 'Plan B' however, Scorn returns to form in a way that's a bit unanticipated. While stripping down to just the barest of bones, 'Plan B' manages to merge Scorn's minimalist anger with something that had been left behind somewhere around 'Evanescence;' the groove! 'Plan B' is a constant head-nodder from its opening assault of speaker-blowing bass feedback to the finale that stops abruptly like someone ending a strenuous workout by hopping off the exercise bike. You'll need a decent pair of speakers or headphones to really make sense of this, as a great deal of the depth comes from the way Harris manipulates the low-end often in nonsensical ways. Melodies are carried by fluctuations in filter cutoff, looping piano figures, and the occasional tonal scrape or stab. Meanwhile, Scorn's sense of humor remains in-tact. A lesser artist would take this formula and add a 'spooky' sample from Aliens, but Harris cuts the assault of beats and bass with occasional samples that lighten up the work and relieve it of the deadpan seriousness that so much of this kind of music adheres to. Equally at home in a set of post-industrial beat mayhem or an underground hip hop dj set, 'Plan B' might just give you an excuse to shake it a little. - Matthew Jeanes
The prospect of new material from Mick Harris's project mightn't get hearts racing as it would have done a few years ago, but this EP of four mixes from 'Plan-B,' and two exclusive tracks show a real return to form. Whenever I hear a new Scorn release, I always hope he'll have added some new twist or surprise, and for once he's showing some interest in moving away from his established style. The dub influences have been slowly edged out since his move to Hymen Records, leaving just the the slow-motion, lumbering hip-hop beats and abstract bass rumbles. Thankfully though, he hasn't lost his knack for getting your head pounding, and as the first few crunchy beats of "Hedrake" lurched into existence, I stopped caring whether he has re-invented himself; okay, it's nothing he hasn't done a thousand times before, but after years of honing his approach, he's getting it down to a fine art. His ultra-minimal, stripped-down sound gets a little drab on two of the 'beat mix' remixes, being little more than mildly engaging drum tracks and looped fragments. It's the remaining three tracks on 'Governor,' though, which elevate it above his recent work. The more abstract, masterful "Collections" focuses more on the eerie texture and unsettling ambience. The added dimension makes a world of difference, and more of this standard would see him re-established as the master of this genre.
The closing two remixes are entirely un-Scorn-like, and are a real breath of fresh air, with a marked move away from the pounding beats towards a fresh, less immediate exploraion of eerie abstractions. The first is a brief, looped and stretched piano loop, while the second is a superb, energetic Somatic Responses mix of "The Snow Hill." Each confirm that future Scorn releases are something to get excited about again. - Bill Ryubin
Four Tet, "I'm On Fire (Parts 1 & 2)"
This latest 45 rpm 7" single from Kieran Hebden is a two-part tune in which the theme/motif/progression plays through in cycles with various changes in instrumentation, grooves and breaks. "Part 1" is driven by a mid-up tempo, choppy, hip-hop style beat with dance underlings. The chord progressions are arpeggiated at first by a distant electric guitar with the bass holding down the fort, which then blends seamlessly with sampled vibraphone, synth, treated sounds and backwards masking, making for some great and subtle listening. As mentioned, "Part 2" has a "more of same, only different" approach with a surprisingly different outlook as most of the elements of "Part 1" are arranged with slight variance. The absence of a definitive back beat in the groove helps to highlight the tune's orchestration and focuses more on the clever leading of the chords and their qualities in relation to each other. 'I'm on Fire' is worth searching out. - Gord Fynes
Both experimental electronic producers and tech-house DJs alike show a reverence for the highly-imitated Cologne sound. The same respect applies to the city's own Kompakt label, which continues to put out slabs and discs of dubby analogue deepness. For the fourth installment of the Total series, some of the previously-released tracks from the past year are compiled alongside cuts from upcoming singles. Though I enjoy the tech-house sound quite a bit, most of the material on here is forgettable, not to say that those songs are necessarily bad. From a DJ's perspective, there are too many "transition" tracks that can help keep a set moving along, but really fail to give it any luster or polish. The exceptions, however, are the type of tracks that make labels famous. Jürgen Paape offers "Mit Dir," an unusually Germanic-flavored slice of neo-disco that left me equally puzzled and entertained. Similar to Vladislav Delay's work under the Luomo moniker, M. Mayer's "Falling Hands" features near-whispered vocals ("I'm falling in love") over a deep bassline, delay-treated kicks, and airy strings. Autobianchi's "All Around (Everybody's Kissing)" is driving vocal house worthy of play alongside recent stormers like "Nightclubbing At Home" from MRI. The sex appeal that emanates from this song recalls ecstasy-fueled orgiastic foreplay in a club or at a rave, the kind that only ever happens in late-night movies and the fantasies of confirmed perverts like myself. Though there are some genuine disasters here (namely the dismal electroclash craze cash-in cover song from Superpitcher), 'Total 4' holds its own as a decent, though often boring, collection of one region's current contributions to the ever-growing international tech-house scene. These pretzels are making me thirsty. - Gary Suarez
Low Res, "Blue Ramen"
With his well-received debut album "Approximate Love Boat", Danny Zelonky emerged as Low Res with experimental electronic music in a style all his own. Low Res takes samples of a broad range of instruments and creates engrossing yet completely disparate music with them. It's clear that Zelonky, like a recent wave of electronic artists, believes that the best music is created through this approach, not through cheaply synthesized recreations that never sound genuine. But it's the way he accomplishes this goal on his second LP "Blue Ramen" that is truly ingenious. Even with real instruments at his disposal - including real drums and percussion - nearly every beat and sound is programmed on these songs. The instruments were not recorded the way they are played and then assembled in a collage with beats. Every note is placed there in a systematic piece-by-piece approach. So what escapes from the speakers sounds at once improvised and freeform, like a group of musicians playing together, when in fact every part of it is structured meticulously by Low Res to help end the "cheap karaoke" sound of synths and samplers. The results are interesting, but a bit of a grab-bag. Different rhythms and tastes abound - from the Latin-tinged album opener 'Shaftasia' to the almost jazz shuffle of 'Inverse Shift' - which gives the release a schizophrenic feel. Low Res just seems to create whatever music he wants, with no regard for a common theme or style. "Ramen" also features the debut of a rather strange electronic wind instrument, one Zelonky calls the "ersax", and abundant strains of Low Res' favorite instrument: the organ. It makes your toe tap in areas, makes your hips shake in others, and makes your brain hurt in still others, but never all at once. The songs are a rather disjointed listen, which is unfortunate considering the skill and creativity involved. It's rumored that Low Res intends to assemble a live band to tour behind "Blue Ramen", and that would be a treat. For the record, though, it would work so much better with a common theme or genre to give it backbone. Still a fine effort from a talented musician. - Rob Devlin
Mitchell Akiyama, "Temporary Music"
The first release in the new Raster-Post series from Raster Noton, this CD is unsurprisingly
eye-catching, at least in its limited-to-1000-pieces form. (It comes in a matte-black card case held closed with a black elastic cord, a distinctive red dot, and subtle black and stark white type.) On the one hand, it is a truly beautiful recording, both musically and, importantly for this sort of abstract, minimal electronica, in its production, which is occasionally stunning. On the other hand, it's a perfect example of genre music, with virtually nothing original about it. Instead, it imitates the classics of post-Oval glitch music to the most slavish extent: there are what could only generously be called "echoes" of Oval, Microstoria, Fennesz, Vladislav Delay, and Pole, to name the most obvious. More often than not the originals seem to have been sampled.
It's all brilliantly done and very, very listenable, but ultimately derivative. My initial reaction was that that's shame when the artist's ability with sound is so apparent as it is here. But why is it called 'Temporary Music?' Is it meant to be an ephemeral tribute record? Is it a conceptual take on the current strain in experimental computer music that samples or modifies "conventional" recordings, made by the likes of Stephan Mathieu, Ekkehard Ehlers, and Akira Rabelaisjust taking next step and having micro-music reprocess itself? No idea, but if you want orginality above all else, look elsewhere. If you're happy listening to this sort of music and want to welcome a new name who does exactly the same thing as everyone else (albeit with a possible explanation for why he's doing it) look no further. - Andrew Shires
Noize Creator, "Deferred Media"
With the recent rise in popularity of such abrasive artists as Venetian Snares and Somatic Responses, now seems like a perfect time to revive the scene formerly known as digital hardcore/breakcore. Ambush has always been a major player here, dropping releases of "hazardous sounds" from kingpins like Panacea and DJ Scud for some time. Fans of the aforementioned acts will surely enjoy the grim vibe of Noize Creator. This twenty-eight minute EP contains seven rather indistinguishable tracks of beats, noise, and dark ambient atmospheres. The significant downside to this CD is how sonically similar it all sounds. Noize Creator uses the same formulaic elements throughout, but randomizes them in such a way that they're supposed to be separate tracks. However, I've been listening to this on-and-off for weeks, and if you quizzed me on which song was which, I certainly couldn't tell you. That being said, the material itself is fierce, fast, and furious. Heavy industrial sounds merge with mangled drum loops (often with unclear, changing time signatures) on DJ-unfriendly tracks like "Hate Cops" and "Per Thousand." The beats hit with brute force and achieve maximum results though a sound system that can handle the bass. There are two remixes on here which both keep with the album's distorted sense of flow. "NBK (South London mix)" combines Rotterdam gabber with neck-snapping breakbeats and abrupt chord changes. "Hate Cops (remix)" charges ahead with the intensity of the original, but with an even greater sense of chaos. All in all, 'Deferred Media' is strictly for the noiseheads, and definitely not for the uninitiated. - Gary Suarez
Lucky Pierre, "Hypnogogia"
The debut solo album by Aidan Moffat, one half of Glaswegian duo Arab Strap, was born out of insomnia. Unable to tolerate most "chill-out" music, Moffat assembled pieces from sounds he found to be conducive to sleep. The result is a record luxurious in sound, yet straightforward in construction. 'Hypnogogia' is surprisingly diverse for an album intended to induce sleep. Both "Angels on Your Body" and "Shatterproof" are sultry mixes of sensuously melancholy strings and slow, bassy beats. Meanwhile, "Nurse Flamingo", with its bizarre, charming silliness, sounds as if it would be right at home in a Terry Gilliam film. The pieces run the gamut from exotic, tribal vocals to opera samples over echoey piano notes. Moffat meticulously compiled the track order so that each side of the vinyl version of the album allowed the listener to relax gradually and then drift off to sleep at the end. "The Heart of All That Is" and "Bedwomb", tracks five and ten on the CD (the last tracks on either side of the vinyl version) have the ability to leave the listener in an oneiric suspension between wakefulness and unconsciousness. The man behind Lucky Pierre has surely succeeded in his mission, as I sit here listening to the album come to a close, with my eyelids fluttering, feeling the magnetic lure of my down comforter. - Jessica Tibbits
Arco Flute Foundation, "Everything After the Bomb is Sci-Fi"
Some bands like a little variety on their releases. They don't mind if one song on the album sounds like a different band than the one before or after it. They don't even mind if every song sounds like a different band. Other bands use different albums or EPs to try out different concepts. In the case of Arco Flute Foundation, the members started another band entirely to put out this music. Arco Flute Foundation is the same principals who are in Meisha, but recording as such because the music is that much removed from their former selves. Meisha are languid, slight, and melodic with a subdued energy, recording instrumentals that are lush and captivating. Arco Flute Foundation, on the other hand, is more interested in loud, boisterous, loose instrumental rock. 'Everything After' is their third release on Cenotaph, and it is their most adventurous yet. More electronics, more Slint-like guitar antics, more distortion, and more ambient noise appear on these songs than have in the past. These passages are still unfocused and raw, however, with the band members seemingly exploring the space around them with these compositions. There are two tracks under the four-minute mark that seem to be the more structured songs (more accessible?), but beyond that the Foundation just let it bleed, adding and subtracting elements as the song progresses, trying to find their happy hunting ground. Honestly, it has some very interesting elements, but the two shorter songs are the best tracks solely because of their structure. The album's closer, "Seymour Uncle Billy," approaches what seems like the true sound of the band, a balance between the structure and improvisation, between the noise and the music. Now that they seem to have all of the instruments and sounds they want to explore, that should be the next area to perfect. Which means the next Arco Flute Foundation release could be a fine one, indeed. - Rob Devlin
David Jackman, "Verhalte Dich Ruhig"
A perfect assemblage of absurd clichés has been collected here by Organum's David Jackman. The cover
and title both suggest something of both the dark and sinister mindsets: 'Verhalte Dich Ruhig'
translates to English literally as 'Keep yourself calm,' but more aggressively could be referred to as 'Duck and cover'. The picture, on the other hand, may have been taken in an abandoned concentration camp or some completely harmless old house in Germany, but you'll never know for sure. The old tactics of anti-information are omnipresent here: artist, title, catalogue number, label name and that's it. Everything else is grey aside from the picture (which gets repeated in the inlet once more in case you've accidently spilt your cup of coffee or your young niece made it look nicer with the addition of crayon-drawn flowers). Unsurprisingly, the disc is limited and the total playing time (of just about 30 minutes) is properly split in two parts of equal length. (This could have been perfect for a multi-color 10" vinyl release, but the value-for-money question arises once more. But is it only the length that counts?) At first I thought the music was some fooling around with neo-classical recordings but after listening more closely, I'm pretty sure it's taken completely of some of Hollywood's Golden Era. Perhaps it could be Alfred Hitchcock, perhaps something completely different - I can't tell exactly. All the kitsch, the pathetic over-emotional glory, drama and the unreal passion is displayed for the sake of entertainment and it actually works as a quite comforting soundtrack to various daily duties as any good pop music should do. The same music packed in some nice baby pink and light blue artwork with some lighthearted design of 1940's girls or movie scenario would have made more sense. However, this is probably his special sense of humor which isn't meant to reach everyone at first, or, as I said above, he just wants to point his finger on the current avant-garde cliché and have a laugh on his own.
- Carsten S.
Loren Chasse, "Hedge of Nerves"
Using vinyl as an anachronistic commentary on technology and culture is all too common these days, but on this release, Loren Chasse takes a far more low-level view of the medium. He explores the detail inherent in the surface noise of recordskind of an analog representation of the digital "glitch"and also juxtaposes it with similar sounds found in nature, such as wind, leaves, fire, and surf. The first of four untitled tracks combines layers of quiet cracking and popping with some distant-sounding music that's probably also coming from the record. The vinyl noises, spread throughout the stereo field, are continuously changing, and though they're simple and commonplace sounds, their combination with the soothingly indistinct music is warm and hypnotizing. The second track is significantly more aggressive, with louder, more distorted surface noises mixed with the sounds of wind and the ocean. There's considerable detail throughout the piece, but at times it's covered by such a thick wall of noise that close attention becomes necessary. What's fascinating is that this storm of sound, that at first seemed to overwhelm and mask the piece, holds in itself a deep level of richness and complexity. The third track is more dynamic, starting with some electronic hissing and buzzing and a little bit of crackle fading in and out, along with more barely perceptible music. It ebbs and flows while building up, like the tide that it samples, until it finally grows into a tumultuous roar. The final track is my favorite, as it features the best arrangement of the quietly melodic music submerged under what sounds like sand falling and the buzzing of a few really scratched up records. In all, 'Hedge of Nerves' is an interesting album with some moments of great subtle beauty. Though it may not be the best record for casual listening, it isn't too "conceptual" to be entertaining. According to Anomalous, it was designed in part to be used to make "virtual scratchy records" by mixing it with other sources, and it definitely succeeds in that and more. - Steve Smith
Vromb, "Mémoires Paramoléculaires"
The Hushush label website refers to the latest release from Vromb as "the first chapter in an electronic opera for ultratonical machines." If that works for you, by all means, go for it. While there's a narrative background to this release that is expressed vaguely in the artwork and printed inserts which accompany it, I can't help but wonder if such accoutrements sometimes detract from otherwise interesting music. After all, it's the sound here that we can all experience without the cultural baggage of language, theories of music, and so on,... Structurally, the songs here build as one might imagine: generally growing from a small, discrete set of sounds into a much louder and less easily defined set. Distant hums and hisses grow into swelling storms of overtones and drones. Rhythm is provided alternately by the natural pulse of tones and by looping effects employed to stretch discrete sounds over time, causing the album undulate as the energy is pulled in and released. Vromb's digital collage can transform from a mild ambient rumble like a radio left on in another room to high-pitched skree not unlike I would imagine a cranial drill would sound in short time. The ebbs and flows here work to keep anything from being too much of a particular thing for long. The tracks with a stronger rhythmic sense employ repeating synthetic patterns which echo a minimal techno aesthetic, whereas the quieter moments recall any number of electroacoustic compositions of the last several years. While the idea that there is a story that underlies this album might add to the repeat-play value, it is ultimately not a factor in determining what Vromb is after here: namely a thorough excursion through the realm of digital microsound, with a focus on the dissonance of that sonic landscape. If any of that, (or the story of Professor Heurel Gaudot) interests you, this is probably a good record to add to your collection. - Matthew Jeanes
Delarosa + Asora, "Crush the Sight-Seers"
As a listener, one of the more celebrated things about some prolific independent artists gaining more deserved recognition would be the availability of previous material that may have originally been issued in limited quantities, or else did not have as wide a distribution as present. Formerly released as a three-track twelve inch EP limited to 1,000 copies, the Scott Herren project of Delarosa + Asora's 'Crush the Sight-Seers' has recently materialized on CD through Chicago's Hefty Records, home to Herren's Savath + Savalas. In keeping with the added value of some reissues, a bonus track has been included. The recurring distorted keyboard chatters and metallic percussion sample of the opening track "OSSABAW" blends into a sub-bass progression and laid-back, half-time groove with the odd break to mark off sections of the tune. The two-and-a-half minute "OSS.BW" is a multi-layered piece of eerie drones, synth squelches and chimes that could be the equivalent of sound painting through channel surfing at a mixing console. "Airbrush (clogged)" builds from distorted vocal snippets and reverbed static to a cordial bass line and mid-tempo electro-percussion groove with a gradually building back beat. Eventually it all falls away leaving the distant sounds of distorted keyboards and squelchy tape shuttling. "Vs. Boah" skitters from static pops, sound layers and vocal samples to a dark sounding danceable groove which builds in intensity after each lengthy break. A shift in the key signature makes from a great release from all the tension the track builds. Dropping out just shy of the five minute mark for two-and-a-half minutes of silence, the music returns with an echo to the drones and hisses of "OSS.BW" to close off. While this disc may be an acquired taste as it's not as groove-oriented or melodically friendly as other Scott Herren projects, I'd have to say that it still makes for a great listen for just those reasons too. As mentioned in the liner notes, another good thing about CD reissues of unmarked RPM vinyl is hearing the tunes at the speed they were intended to be played at without any doubt. - Gord Fynes
Julee Cruise, "The Art of Being a Girl"
The story goes like this: David Lynch wanted to use This Mortal Coil's haunting version of Tim Buckley's "Song to a Siren" for a pivotal scene in his classic film "Blue Velvet." Something about Elizabeth Frasier's ethereal, wavering voice and the echoing acoustic guitar was perfect for a particular scene in the film. For the rights to use the song, 4AD wanted a figure that was half the budget of the film he was making. Deeply disappointed that he could not afford the song, he asked the film's composer, Angelo Badalamenti, to write and produce a track that had a similar "feel". Badalamenti found a singer with the voice of an angel, Julee Cruise, an unknown who had been working off-off-Broadway, and with lyrics penned by Lynch, they composed the song "Mysteries of Love".
Although not quite the equal of "Song to a Siren", they saw a lot of potential, and eventually Lynch and Badalamenti teamed up to write and produce an album for Julee Cruise. Lynch wrote the lyrics and guided the sound, and Badalamenti filled out the sound with his excellent ear for composition. The classic album "Falling Into the Night" is a pop treasure, combining 1950s rockabilly guitar with darkly atmospheric synthesized strings and Cruise's angelic, overdubbed vocals. The Lynch/Balamenti/Cruise collaboration went on for several years, and the songs ended up in Lynch's "Twin Peaks" and Wim Wenders "Until the End of the World". There was a follow up album a couple of years later, 'Voice of Love'. It wasn't nearly as good, but it still captured the sound that had originally inspired Lynch/Badalementi. They even built a huge rock-opera spectacle around Julee Cruise, 1989's "Industrial Symphony No. 1".
Not satisfied to wait for Lynch and Badalamenti to write her another album, Julee has chosen a different group of collaborators to work with for her new album 'The Art of Being a Girl.' If anyone had any questions about how much input Julee had into her music all these years, this album should clear everything up. She had no input at all. Lynch/Badalamenti were using Julee as an instrument, a breathy "little-girl-lost" voice to accompany their atmospheric tracks. This is the first album where Julee has co-written songs, and it is an incredibly average affair. Her collaborators (Mocean Worker, Khan and some guy named J.J. McGeehan), have used a lot of trite studio tricks in an attempt to distract the listener from the fact that the songs are boring. Julee makes the error of trying to recreate herself as some kind of world-wise feminist diva. It feels really forced, and the album sounds like every other downtempo "sexy" electronic pop album with faceless female vocals.
Several of the tracks attempt to mimic Julee's guest star turn on Khan's awesome track "Say Goodbye" from last year's 'No Comprendo'; none of them live up to these aspirations. The compositions are tired and riddled with cliché. The laughable, non-sexy spoken word segments in many of the songs don't help at all. As a final insult, there is a hidden track, a new version of one of Julee's best songs from the Lynch/Badalamenti years, "Falling" (recognizable to many as the opening theme of Twin Peaks). This tepid version adds nothing to the original song, and it just serves as a reminder of how great the song sounded when it was in the hands of more talented collaborators. Julee Cruise's talent is serviceable in the proper context, when the songwriting and production is top-notch. However, this underachieving album pales in comparison to her previous work as a bit player in the grand Lynchian musical drama. - Jonathan Dean
Michael Gendreau, "55 Pas De La Lingne Au No.3"
This record is nothing if not meditative. While pushing the normally suppressed and inaudible whirs and clicks of the mechanical innards of your favorite turntable into the foreground, Michael Gendreau has curiously pushed the attention on the actual sound output of his recording to the back. My zen-like state of concentration aside, it was virtually impossible for me to listen to the opening piece (one of two long tracks that makes up the album) without wondering where the sounds came from, how they were recorded, and what this all said about listening to the playback device instead of the playback. The use of a turntable to produce sounds other than those reproduced from a vinyl record is far from novel, but Gendreau spends a full 16:50 trying to beat the idea of these hidden sounds into our head. A constant drone that could be the inside of the tone arm amplified to a low roar, reminded me a great deal of the results of a naive experiment I once conducted by placing a microphone in front of a fan and letting it record for half an hour. It's interesting for about two minutes, then you realize that your ears have intentionally filtered this kind of sound out all of your life for a reason: it's boring. The second (and longer) of the two pieces finds Gendreau more actively affecting the results of his micro-scale recordings. Clocking in at 35:45, it's still not a piece for anyone deeply engaged in the Nintendo Generation, and the piece could easily be broken into smaller, more digestible segments. Structurally, it works like listening to a record as the record player's various internal sound quirks are explored episodically like grooves in a record that isn't there. The absent needle and wax are referenced in the way the track picks up an idea, exploits a sound or natural rhythm for a while, then drops the idea and skips onto the next. After nearly an hour of listening for the compositional touch that Gendreau added to make these more than simple field recordings, I came to realize that maybe the music was not, in itself, the point. The only question that remains for me is this: why wasn't this released on vinyl? - Matthew Jeanes
Wang Inc., "Risotto in 4/4"
I love the way CDs are programmable. For instance, I can take a disc like this one, with a strong
opening, "Clear a Space for the King," which conjurs up space aliens grooving on a flashy dancefloor and
listen along with the calm and pretty "Sprinkling Time," completely avoiding songs like "Transylvanian
Spy" with its irritating, tinny two-bar melodies and "Lonely Stars" with its obnoxious fake piano riff
that makes me want to throw things across the room. Reading the song titles, the record label's web
site, and the distributor's release notes, each account for this album almost completely contradicts the
others: ranging from a fascination with science fiction to the imitation of stomach and digestive sounds
to references of musique concrête. While most of the music here is decent, I can't justify it receiving
as much over-evaluation. Clearly, the one-man person behind Wang Inc., Italian Bartolomeo Sailer, is a
talented individual, with a meticulous amount of attention paid to every instrument sound in each of the
fifteen tracks. Rarely are sounds recycled from track to track. Comical punchiness on tracks like
"Sonic Killer" would appease many Sonig fans while "Forgotten Kurdish Workers" can easily appeal to any lover of the spaceship hum from a black and white film. A little more patience with the melodies and a lot more discretion when deciding what to omit might be nicer, however. - Jon Whitney
Remora/Pale Horse and Rider/Rivulets, "The Alcohol EPs"
The concept is interesting for a compilation to say the least: three bands recording songs that are influenced by or created under the influence of alcohol. It could be an absolute disaster, but here it works quite nicely. Then again, the artists featured here are no slouches (even though they may be out of their element a bit). Remora, a.k.a. Brian John Mitchell, usually creates ambient drone-rock, but chose an acoustic guitar as a starting point for his contributions. Jon DeRosa used to present more experimental fare with Aarktica, but his Pale Horse and Ridermaking a recording debut herehas a more country flavor with that modern troubadour appeal. And what more can I say about Rivulets? Nathan Amundson, fresh from his full-length debut and EP, adds the longest tracks here with aplomb. The results of these three different projects are quite stunning as well as incredibly maudlin in nature. DeRosa is a fresh voice with heartbreak on his mind, and his songs are incredibly affecting. On "Bruises Like Badges," he explores the mindset of the casual victim who thrives on the attention of others, as his voice trembles and begs for her to hide the conversation pieces from him. The seven-minute "You've Been Keeping Secrets Again" is the best of the lot, with DeRosa providing his own haunting harmony. Remora's songs are less polished than the others, and far more eclectic, though still solid. They're also the spookiest, as the titles would suggest ("Oblivion," "Hope is Gone"). On "Joy Division," he approaches madness: "We both know I always wanted you forever / I don't want to put a rope to my throat / but I'm listening to Joy Division." Scary. Rivulets just add more reasons for accolades to the set, with simple songs that are far beyond the length my tolerance affords other artists. Amundson never loses you, as his earnest tunes have an inescapable gravity with every guitar strum. He seems to be growing more comfortable with his voice, too, even if the vocals are mixed way in the background. The climax on "Anaconda" with its "I knew you would leave" is especially touching. And there are a few missteps all around (Amundson misses more than one note on "Gimme Excess," for instance). The simple charm of the release gets you over that real quick. Just don't listen too long, as it's liable to depress you. - Rob Devlin
spaceheads, "low pressure"
Merge (North America) / Bip_Hop (Europe)
Forgive my cliché use of a metaphor, but I somehow feel that when I listen to this disc, I'm looking at
a fairly decorative car that simply doesn't go anywhere. Spaceheads have been churning out this same
formula for years: a dubby pretense, a small amount of recycled and reused, two-bar repetitive
sequences, some live drum playing and trumpet with loads of delay effects. The formula's getting old.
While their music is undoubtedly pleasant enough for an escalator ride, and the band has earned a wide
amount of respect as a performing duo, I've never felt their music was compelling enough to simply toss on the hi-fi and either bop along or pay much attention to. The rhythms and melodies exit the song in the same way each and every one of them came in, and the only lead instrument, the trumpet, does a lackluster job as tour guide. By the time this album reaches the fifth track, I swear I'm hearing remixes of the same song, over and over again. If it weren't for the insulting guitar riff on "Fog," or the horrible, tacky electronic drum fills and cheap 1993 Aphex Twin-ripoff on "Storm Force 8," I may have recommend using this music for quiet studies, creative writing, or other mentally requiring activities. Instead, I'm left thinking this album's only practical use could be to underscore a stuffy documentary on the British Rail system or a trip to the paper mill. Maybe lots of drugs might help my experience, but I just don't have enough cash to try that out right now. - Jon Whitney
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