Aereogramme, "Sleep and Release"
Matador (US) / Chemikal Underground (UK)
While the latest release on Chemikal Underground is from a small group of loud Glaswegans with soft tendencies, it bears a very important disclaimer that "this album does not feature members of any bands who are more successful than we are." The group should need no reference point aside from themselves by this time, as their first album, 2001's A Story in White was easily one of the best rock albums that year that most people never heard. If there are any expectations, Aereogramme have nobody to blame but themselves. Once again, the album opens with a raucous thud, "Indescretion #243," where the band firmly grabs your attention from wherever it is with distorted guitars, loud drums, and vocals from singer/guitarist Craig B as fiery as his Scottish red hair. Not entirely unlike the opener from the last, it's not an entirely memorable tune but it sure infectioulsly takes hostage of the psyche and stops all trains of thought. "Now that we've got your attention, let's give you something wonderful,..." is their familiar motive. Like one of my favorite songs from 2001, "Post Tour Pre Judgement," the band proceeds onwards with the second tune, "Black Path," which could easily be one of the most fantastic songs currently out. It's through this that the band introduces their softer side without being any less bombastic. Here, bells, strings, and special effects all add to the grandeur of this humble quartet with stadium rock pipe dreams in a song still tougher than any hair band ballad. While the experimentation with electronics, fancy-schmantzy time signature changes, odd answering machine messages, and strings continues along with the occasional screams and quiet breakdowns throughout the record, I'm sadly left thinking most of this album is technique over substance. While their ability and skills (both in performance and production) have become noticably stronger, I'm aching for some of the catchier songs like "Hatred," that would get stuck in my head days after hearing it. Not for one minute is this album predictable. From the synthetic rhythms of "A Simple Process of Elimination," to the deceptively thrash opening of "Older," there's always an element of mystery as to what's lurking around the corner. This is somewhat refreshing for somebody who gets bored easily, but, adversely, can be hard to really get a full grip on, making the songs more difficult to really sink in. Songs like the album's other power ballad, "In Gratitude," really break through like blinding rays of sunshine after a murky, tumultuous thunderstorm, but in the end, I think I'd choose to be more patient for a better collection of deeper songs that don't always sound like a thrash band trying to see how many wall hangings they can vibrate. Don't get me wrong, there isn't a low point on this album anywhere, but perhaps I might have just expected something different. They will be touring again in the next couple months and after seeing them three times on the support of the last album, I can't recommend the live show enough. (Additional note: music videos are still available to view at the labels' web sites.) - Jon Whitney
Pele have always produced instrumental music that stuns and impresses, their live shows are never to be missed, and 2000's The Nudes was a solid record with practiced musicianship and quality melodies. They're also incredibly autonomous, as guitarist Chris Rosenau is a talented recording engineer, so they can record anywhere with little fuss. Their music is also quite feral in nature, as though it is a wild animal that needs taming. Pele don't make music, they attack it, and the story is no different on Enemies. In fact, they've stepped up the violence and are going for broke. These songs have a psychotic energy, a fervor, that drives them along at a breakneck pace but also has the good sense to take a break now and then. The lineup is the same as The Nudes with one very nice addition in Jon Minor on computer. His contributions are what really make this album shine, as the strange voices and wirey noises give this music a new edge on the old blade. Rosenau's guitar has a fairly similar tone to the one it's had previously, and the band is as cohesive as ever, even with the strangeness of Minor's contributions. "Crisis Win" opens the album with Jon Mueller's manic drumming and hand claps, and just unleashes on the ears for a full eight minutes. Elsewhere, "Hooves" and "Hospital Sports" show a new ambient Pele, with Minor's computer talents at the forefront. The energy is what makes their music so compelling, though, as when it returns on "Hummingbirds Eat," you can't help but crank the volume and get moving. "Cooking Light," a nine-minute shuffle closes the album, and captures the beautiful improvisation of the band at its best. This album is an old friend, a warm blanket, the glove that fits every time. With Minor, Pele is a new and brave band with a lot of ground to cover. - Rob Devlin
Cinematic Orchestra, "New Horizon"
The title track of this three-song EP makes for an awesome continuation of the crisp, groove-driven compositions of 2002's Every Day, which incorporated a full live band rather than relying as heavily on sampled rhythm sections and re-mixing as previous releases. The upbeat and lyrically positive Horizon features the soulful singing of Niara Scarlett (who also co-wrote the tune) backed by the group's driving, latin-jazz inspired rhythm section. Voiced mainly by a Rhodes piano, the band's grooves shift comfortably and dig deep throughout different sections of the tune. "Oregon" features the duo of band leader J. Swinscoe and saxophonist Tom Chant for a composition which originates as a sombre, repetitive chord progression from the keyboard that builds into multiple layers of soprano sax, bass clarinet and whirring electronic effects. Closing out the EP, and taking up the entire second side if you get the vinyl, is the six-and-a-half minute Patrick Carpenter (aka PC/Mr. P) re-mix, "Evolution II," which uses the outstanding Fontella Bass vocal track from "Evolution" as its center. Opening with some spacious string swells and drones, the tune kicks into a burning, jazzy groove to back the vocals and eventually draw in a slightly distorted sub-bass line to fill it all out. Carpenter's keyboards and re-mixing have the vocals sounding even better in this context than in the notable original. This EP is well worth hearing, even for this track alone. - Gord Fynes
"Prototype: Armaments & Armatures Against Electronic Music"
Laton / Redaktionsbuero
Austrian label Laton together with Vienna-based journalist's collective Redaktionsbuero have put out this thirteen track compilation of electronic music packaged together with a sort of tabloid publication containing 12 pages of text relating to the music and two poster-sized x-ray images of electronic equipment. The CD includes contributions from Benzo, Pan Sonic, Pomassl, Fon, Alva Noto, Alexei Borisov, Thilges3, Auxpan, Terre Thaemlitz, Mira Calix, Udo Wid, Tommi Grönlund & Petteri Nisunen, and CM von Hausswolff. The presentation makes it clear that the paper document is to be taken at least as seriously as the digital one. At first I was pleased with the whole thing: it's a nice size, has something to read and some nice pictures bigger even than in a gatefold LP. However, with the exception of Alexej Borisov's interesting account of the Russian music scene, the essays are very disappointingvariously banal, vacuous and old ideas dressed up in irritatingly self-aggrandizing language. The CD itself is a mixed bag and as such the high points stand out. Pan Sonic provide a powerful, visceral layering of hum and buzz; Noto's piece is a haunting, throbbing soundscape ornamented with pretty electro-gestures drenched in reverb; and Thaemlitz's fascinating composition combines trashy looped disco samples with potently inhuman synthetic sounds, machine noises and calculated sequences that make a dramatic and disturbing contrast with the pop music backdrop. For me, it functions as a rather effective indictment of the easyand vaguely cowardlyabstraction of some of the music on this CD and so popular now elsewhere. Too much of the rest of the music relies on hackneyed, clicky rhythmic constructions or on conventional forms executed with insufficient taste or skill. I suspect that the musicians are less to blame for this than the compilers since for some of them we know that in other contexts their music can be of value. The stand out winner for me is the three minute "Til," by young Icelandic newcomer Elvar Már Kjartans aka Auxpan. Sounding a bit like "Kytkenta - Connection," from Vainio's Kaja CD, it is a beautiful ripping noise, evoking the power of electricity to move, burn and destroy. This is one of those extremely rare and exceptional pieces of music that is so satisfying that it can turn your day around. - Tom Worster
gary wilson, "forgotten lovers"
Those captivated by the skeezy sound of the Gary Wilson are in for a treat, as enough songs have been uncovered for a second album of material previously unavailable on compact disc. For those who don't have last year's awesome reissue of You Think You Really Know Me, Wilson was man who simply wasn't afraid to say exactly what's on his mind, and it's mostly about trying to get into a girl's pants. Unsurprisingly, this context is backed by the sound of when low budget porn and Christmas decorations crash in a tavern with upturned barstools and regulars passed out in their own cigarette ashes. The result is actually amazingly catchy, with slick bass riffs, clever drumming and the piano and keyboard work of a dedicated talent. This disc collects a variety of scarce singles and B-sides, and aged demos, with loads of pictures and detailed accounts of the years, places and the age of Wilson when the tunes were recorded. Included are a few instrumental soundtracky jazz jams, like the brilliant "Another Galaxy," to adventurous, stream-of-consciouness tunes like "You Took Me On a Walk Into My Mirror." This would never have been a follow-up to his other album, originally released in 1978, but, as the title suggests, a selection of songs for numerous love desires, long forgotten over time. Judging from the liner notes and story about Wilson returning to his parents home last year, there's still more stuff yet to resurface. I'm completely hooked and will certainly be waiting. - Jon Whitney
Ampbuzz, "This is My Ampbuzz"
With his band Kinski, guitarist Chris Martin engages in noisy, concussive, and layered rock that dwarves most standard rock with its massive weight and intensity. Under his solo moniker, Ampbuzz, Martin takes the spirit of his Kinski work and uses it to create a patient, meditative album that is every bit as intricate and powerful. As soon as the opening track "Bubbles" begins, it is clear that This is My Ampbuzz is thematically centered around ocean imagery, and the shifting drone of the album evokes this concept perfectly. Not a single element seems tagged on; every buzz, layer, and loop seems to reinforce the dark, fluid tone of the album. "Center for Clouds" begins with a deep rushing like water against your eardrums, then builds around an ebbing two note bass line that's surrounded by static gusts and washes, giving the sensation of bobbing up and down in ocean waves. "Soft Currency" follows with a shimmering drone that is interrupted by a frothing, churning noise that sounds like a struggling scuba diver's regulator or a fish tank filter's last gasp. "Diving Instructions" is a sustained, foreboding track full of reversed cymbal hits and sonic jetsam that leads into the panic pulse of "Welcome to the Ocean Floor." The descent is complete, and a deep, resonant buzz overtakes the scene. It's disorienting and unsettling, as the sound moans and oscillates just out of sight. The final track, "Underwater Bomb," doesn't explode into a fury, but instead releases the built up tension of the preceding pieces. This is My Ampbuzz is a fully-rendered, fully-realized listening experience that manages to vividly capture an image, from the glistening beauty of the surface to the chilling, claustrophobic depths. - Michael Patrick Brady
mouse on mars, "rost pocks: the ep collection"
In the years between this collection being first announced until the time of its release (this past week), almost anybody could have probably tracked down the out of print recordings contained herein. With that in mind, I can't deny that I'm somewhat jaded about the release before even possessing it. Now that it's in my hands, I'm relieved to finally have it, excited as a longtime fan, but still somewhat put off by its posturing as an EP collection, as it neglects some songs from the original EPs and was arranged in a nonsensical random order. On the surface, Mouse On Mars have always appeared to be nonsensical (just pick up any album of theirs and look at the song titles!). However, the music has always been cold-calculated, with strong tendencies to avoid the trends that have come and gone since they started releasing music back in 1994. For this, the duo of Toma and St. Werner have perpetually remained ahead of the curve. They could have easily jumped on bandwagons of drum 'n bass or glitch, but as the trends became more minimal, more was added to their sound. They held their ground with music that was always dancable and rich with captivating melodies and unique sounds from song to song. Starting in 1994 with the Frosch EP, the duo are clearly observably unwilling to accept pre-packaged preset sounds and pre-programmed beats. While appearing on compilations like Trance Europe ExpressBib EP, with songs like "Selektron," slower than what they were used to doing before, but never dull at any point. By 1997's Cache Coeur Naif EP, the band has kept the beat intact, bottomed it out with a rump-shaking intensity, added the vocals of Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier, and found a way to mangle original sounds of guitars and basic keyboards beyond original recognition while still maintaining a sexy catchiness. If this isn't considered intelligent dance music, then I don't know what to think. With the most recent recording on this disc now six years old, the music has held up amazingly well compared to the music of many of MoM's contemporaries. - Jon Whitney
PIGFACE, "EASY LISTENING... FOR DIFFICULT FUCKHEADS"
I've always liked Pigface and, often, loved them because of the things that set them apart from the legions of look-a-like and sound-a-like industrial-rock clones: a forever fluid membership (including many females), variety, groove and an actual sense of humor. Drummer/producer Martin Atkins is rightfully proud of his 12-year-old babyan unruly child with multiple personality disorderand this time around there's over 40 others, old and new, helping him feed, diaper and discipline it. All of the 13 tracks are restrained to the three- to four-minute range (only one exceeds five minutes) and I can't help but notice that most of the ones I dislike are the ones in which Atkins has no writing credit. Even though there aren't really rules as to what is and what isn't "Pigface", about half of this album is run-of-the-mill or out of place and just doesn't feel like Pigface to me.
"Mind Your Own Business" and "Sweetmeat" prove that you can write cool songs about anything, even privacy via a "can I have a taste of your ice cream?" metaphor and unfortunate encounters with animals. "Insect/Suspect" is an instant classic with bash and crash drums, Keith Levene-esque guitar (he actually appears on another track) by Kittie's Fallon Bowman and Hate Dept's Seibold and Chris Connelly trading off verse and chorus vocals. "Closer To Heaven" is the "hit" as it were, dripping with sitars and underpinned by Charles Levi's liquid bass line. Thrill Kill Kult's Groovie Mann is backed by Nocturne's Lacey Conner in refrains of "I'm closer to heaven when I'm with you, I'm closer to heaven without you." "Du Liebst Mich Nicht, Ich Lieb' Dich Nicht," ("You Love Me Not, I Love You Not") sees the successful return of En Esch for another German language sing-a-long. In "Miss Sway Action," Connelly croons poetry over a lo-fi synth and percussion setting by Machines of Loving Grace/Stabbing Westward alumnus David Suycott. That leaves all the rest: heavies dabbling in industrial rock and metal clichés (some of these will be fun live), a cyberpunk spoken word piece by Jared Louche, drum 'n bass filler and a vaguely amusing addition to the "fucks" list led by the talking half of Penn & Teller. The "United" North American tour featuring Pigface, My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult, Zeromancer and Bile will hit the road in mid-March. - Mark Weddle
Puerto Muerto, "Your Bloated Corpse Has Washed Ashore..."
This is a soundtrack to a movie that doesn't exist. It's a movie filled with adventure, romance, and regret as swashbuckling privateers sail the seven seas, coming to port just long enough to break a few hearts and make a few mistakes. The sailor's life is at once glorified, as in "Jean Lafitte," a rollicking sing-a-long sea shanty wherein the title character spins yarns about his eventful life as a sailor, and also lamented. "Go Home," asks "Where do you go when it's closing in on supper time," already knowing the answer when it responds "Wrap your things inside your rag and go." The sea serves as both an escape and a prison, as the sailor of "Streets of Marseilles," running from a painful heartbreak, finds himself shanghaied and regretting the actions that led to the sea, and his fate. Puerto Muerto captures the essence of these tales with spare instrumentation, heavy drums and a staccato strummed acoustic guitar that add a depth and darkness to the sound. Husband and wife Tim Kelley and Christa Meyer share vocal duties, bringing to their respective songs their own nuances that make them special. These are folk ballads, meant to be shared and spread as far as they can go, through every port you pass through. The joyous energy and sorrowful emotion of these songs are absolutely entrancing, seizing on childhood fantasies of adventure while touching on the sad realities of a wanderer's life. Your Bloated Corpse... will have you piecing the scenes to that nonexistent movie together in your imagination. - Michael Patrick Brady
The Delgados, "Hate"
It's simply amazing what a band can accomplish when they truly collaborate. The Delgados had released three proper albums, including the brilliant The Great Eastern, when they were asked to contribute the soundtrack to a film of paintings. The film, by an artist named Joe Coleman, was violent, brutal even. As the first time the band had written music together without the benefit of Alun Woodward or Emma Pollock's lyrics, it, too, was a brutal experience. It was rewarding, however, as it showed the band how beautiful their music could be without words. It's surprising that the people who signed Mogwai wouldn't have tried this before now, but they were then set to make some of the most beautiful music of their lives. It's not that instrumental was where they needed to go, but the music had to come first this time, and so it does on Hate, easily their best work yet by miles. By the band's own admission, where Eastern was a great record, it was brought about because producer Dave Fridmann was able to bring commonalities together in the mixing process. The music was actually frighteningly disparate, because different members wrote different pieces. Fridmann is with them again on Hate, but this time he had less to do, as the band had a unified vision to start. It's a gorgeous vision, too, as the band makes the most moving music they've ever mustered. From "The Light Before We Land," Pollock is in rare form lyrically and vocally, as the music swells and builds around her, almost engulfing her. Woodward then updates the Beatles on "All You Need is Hate," a casual admission of the strong emotion we all have and need to examine more. In order to find the positivity, absorb the negativity, and you will find what you lack. Not a new statement, but a great way to say it, as the band sounds like they're enjoying a new playful and experimental side. All over the disc, The Delgados play with effects and glitches, echoes and strings, faded vocal trails and odd sounds that twist your ears a bit. Where they truly succeed is when they slow it down and break it down. "Coming in From the Cold," and "Child Killers" are the album's middle, its core, and its two best tracks. After that, it's classic Delgados, just better and more coherent. "Favours," and "Never Look at the Sun" have that energy seen on Eastern matched with the complete meld of their new sound, and it works on so many levels. Even Woodward's singing has improved, as he gets more comfortable in his delivery. The US release also contains two bonus tracks recorded at the same time but not on the UK release. It's their best, that much is true, but something tells me it's just gonna get better. - Rob Devlin
Vivo is a primarily electronic label based in Poland with six releases to date, including the recommended Black Faction remix album 'Reworked.' With this compilation, they present 49 minutes worth of "narrative sonic stories," ("nowele" is Polish for "short stories") by little known but impressive artists from the US, Poland and Japan. "Uruk," by Maciek Szymczuk sets a rhythmic foundation of pops and gelatinous warbles as a lucid two note ping makes for melody. "Awar Fedbk," by Shapethrower slowly casts resonant synth waves over gears and light beats. "NonStopFilm," by FilmFilter, the lone Japanese entry, is uniquely bizarre as numerous samplespop vocals, cartoon-like sound effects, a twinkle bell, rips and tears, metal on metal, etc.violently mesh in a Nurse With Wound-meets-Mouse on Mars manner. Yume's three tracks are mostly soft, truly ambient environments, populated with chimes and the sonic residue of shifting clutter. Phasmid's "The Heroine Of Goat Bells," and "Mehr Licht," (More Lights) feature playful melodies plunked out on vibraphone-like instruments, the former forgoing the latter's big bass tones and tiny beats for bird song and ritualistic thumps. The cryptically titled "I=B000-B7FF.CRC," and "There's No Way," by Zenial and Palsecam (the latter vs. Szymczuk) both overlay mellow ambiances with more pops and slightly more aggressive electronics. Finally, "Six Sigma (Blackbelt Rmx)," by Alphabet1 mixes moans, mid tempo drum loops, and electric guitar notes, all effected in one way or another. Altogether, this is a very pleasant array of electro-organic sounds. "Now:Le" is one of those compilations that you won't have to skip any tracks and you'll want to repeat quite a few. - Mark Weddle
dirty three, "she has no strings apollo"
Anchor & Hope (AU) /
Bella Union (UK) /
Touch & Go (US)
It's late and the bartender has announced last call. Tonight was fantastic, as a number of singers graced the stage to stand in the spotlight, whether it was an ex junkie, a rich hick with a spooky beard, an overemotional freaky chick, or a cute male/female duo who harmonize beautifully well. The parade of stars has come and gone. The crowd has been reduced to the small number of staff and a couple others who similarly are just trying to let the world stop spinning. On stage, the trio that sat in the back are still playing quietly. A triangular symmetry is met by the lonely violinist, shuffling drummer and reflective guitarist. Only now does it make sense that while these folks can back up a variety of egos, their knowledge of, attraction to, and attention in which they pay each other is truly remarkable. Warren Ellis, Mick Turner, and Jim White have been playing as Dirty Three for years, and with each album, it seems their bond grows stronger. Whether it's with the driving force of "She Has No Strings," the quiet piano and malleted-drums of "Long Way to Go with No Punch," or the plucked violins on "No Stranger Than That," they demonstrate that like any great ensemble, there is never one member who is more or less important than the other. Sure, they take turns leading the group here and there, like the unexpected fuzz guitar on "Rude (and then some slight return)," the mad drum solo on "No Sister Let Them Try and Follow," and the multiple-layered violins on "She Lifted the Net." Dirty Three are one of the most reliably consistent bands and I have never been let down by any of their records. Furthermore, it's always an extra special treat to see any of them live together, alone, or with others, and I'm happy that it seems like they're always on the road in some band or another. - Jon Whitney
mick turner, "moth"
By now, the house lights have come up, the violinist has left with some girl, the drummer is loading up his truck, and a lone guitarist continues on. If Dirty Three is appropriate for the late, late night, Mick Turner's music is most definitely appropriate for after, after hours. Like other Mick Turner albums, Moth is a collection of numerous short but pretty pieces. This time around, there's 19 untitled parts. While it lacks the more solid song structures with Tren Brothers and Bonnelvill releases, the expectant beauty and variety has remained. Turner's instrument is simply the guitar and rarely something more. With the use a looping pedal, layers are added, removed, played with and reversed to make beautiful guitar collages. Mike Krassner (Boxhead Ensemble, Edith Frost, Pinetop Seven), who co-produced the album joins up on piano by "Part 5," and appears on piano for a number of parts thereafter, until, by "Part 18," (I think it's mis-labelled on the sleeve) they're joined on organ by Ryan Hembrey (also of the Boxhead Ensemble, Edith Frost, and Pinetop Seven). While the songs are delicate and gorgeous, I would probably recommend this album only for existing fans, as other fantastic introductions to Mick Turner's work would include music as Bonnelvill with Jessica Biley on violin and piano or being fortunate enough to catch him live where he blissfully lets the songs drift for great lengths. - Jon Whitney
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