!!!, "Me and Giuliani Down By the Schoolyard"
Touch and Go (US) / Warp (UK)
I've been calling this band Bang Bang Bang, but some of my friends insist on calling them Chik Chik Chik. According the pronunciation guide on the cover of this new two-track single, we're both right. However, I really prefer the way Bang Bang Bang sounds, and it kind of rolls off the tongue in an exciting way. "Exciting" is they key word for !!!, whose vivid, energetic reinvisionment of early-80's dance-influenced post-punk thrives on tense, ass-shaking grooves. Since their 2000 debut, !!! have led the way for a whole crop of new bands exploiting this sound, as well as a rediscovery of the original artists and classic albums from the period that have been collecting dust for twenty years. Their 'sister' band Out Hud, featuring some of the same members, upped the stakes even higher with the amazing album Street Dad, which concentrated on leftfield instrumental disco with a host of brilliant production flourishes. Hearing this new two-track CD single by !!!, it is now unclear where !!! ends and Out Hud begins. Where !!!'s debut had a lean, guitar-driven sound not dissimiliar from Gang of Four, "Me and Giuliani Down By the Schoolyard" contains all of the dense, layered production that made Out Hud sound so unique. In fact, !!! now sound exactly like Out Hud with vocals. Whether this is indicative of a Parliament/Funkadelic kind of cross-pollenating band relationship is uncertain, but I have no complaints about the music, which is fantastic as ever. The title track is a nine-minute "true story" that urges the stiff, Republican leadership of New York City to lose their inhibitions and "get on up & move it" to the music. The vocals are buried and mostly inaudible, but it doesn't really matter because the beat is all you really care about. The bassline is an echo of ESG's "Erase You," and the production utilizes the whole repertoire of Out Hud's dub-influenced studio trickery to achieve the maximum groove. Track two is an excellent remix of the song "Intensify" from the debut album. "Intensifieder Sunracappellectroshit Mix 03" rifles through the book of dub and early house production tricks to build an intensity that is far from gimmicky. The track is reduced to vocals, drums and bass, which are alternately echoed, delayed, layered and mutated. Stabs of synth and odd, CD-skip "hiccups" add to the eclectic drama of the track. This is an awesome single. Can a new full-length be far behind? - Jonathan Dean
The Lonesome Organist, "Forms and Follies"
Steel-drum-led instrumentals give way to doo-wop laments about the woes and ways of love and foot-tapping jazz freak-outs glide into flowery accordian pieces that somehow get me thinking about coffee, fine wines, and men in really cool, really dark sunglasses. I think it is safe to say that Jeremy Jacobson's mind must be a mishmash of medieval troubadours, pop stars, and drunken French lovers. All but one of the songs are under three minutesand most are under twoyet the music all gels together somehow. Perhaps this phenomenon has something to do with the fact that Jacobson plays every instrument on every song (except for two) and sometimes plays them simultaneously. Forms and Follies jumps from Motown to classically-arranged canons effortlessly and quickly without being too scatter-brained. The album, despite the numerous influences it draws from, feels incredibly focused. When the sleepy, soft-as-a-pillow serenity of "Walking to Weston's" suddenly flew into over-drive and "Who's to Say Your Soul's Not Carbon" rocketed through my ears, I only smiled and marveled at how well it all seemed to fit together and make perfect sense. The last four tracks are a pure joy to listen to and make for great night music (the sound of crickets is the perfect accompaniment to these whimsical piano pieces). "No Place for My Kitten" is particularly incredible, however: heavily processed vocals scratch and struggle to break free of their prison while an almost remorseful accordian-led melody plays calmly and unsuspectingly over the top. My only gripe is that this album is just over thirty-two minutes long and when something sounds this good, I always want more. - Lucas Schleicher
Hat Melter, "Unknown Album"
"Unknown" is a good way to describe this album. With the only provided information being the names of the four players, I'm able to listen without making any assumptions. The music sounds like very dynamic electroacoustic improv, with quiet strings and digital mumbling giving way to noisy, highly textural crescendos. Things shift quickly and don't fall back on familiar formulas. The strings and especially percussion are the most recognizable instruments, but there's a strong electronic leaning. The tonal range of the group is so great that I was surprised to learn that the lineup is two cellists and two percussionists, as they're all capable of extracting a wide range of sounds from their instruments, whether aided by electronics or not. This is one of the most consistently interesting improv albums I've heard lately; for its entire length it really seems unknown, unpredictable, and utterly fascinating. The first of two sides has some cut-up, processed cello and some scraped acoustic strings in the background that develops with an amazing sense of cohesion as it shifts gears into playing that sounds almost like chamber music, gentle but tense string interludes, and percussion-driven free playing. There's a wealth of detail in this recording, both in the melodic features and buried beneath the surface in the sounds themselves. The sense of space is also well-captured; the second side begins with some stunning, slow cello textures and cymbal-heavy percussion that seems like it's coming from another room, heightening its mysterious beauty. That ends abruptly and they move onto other, busier-sounding concepts. This is a very impressive recording, and, as it's only available as a limited 12", a good reason to own a turntable. - Steve Smith
Eluvium, "Lambent Material"
Temporary Residence Ltd.
Eluvium is Matthew Cooper's vehicle for submerging controlled drones from his guitar and piano in water and letting them out in a cerulean submarine world. The entire timbre of the album is an exploration of what music sounds like underwater. Yet few waves or currents jostle the music's placidity; each song is eerily consistent, not changing very much over the course of its minutes (trickier than imaginable, considering one particular song exceeds 15 minutes). Eluvium songs only seem to change over the course of epochs, not eighth notes, but the resistance to change is disciplined, rather than lazy or shortsighted. Each song has the potential to explode or diverge, but instead remains on the easy river and explores a steady tack of controlled dissonance mixed with elegance. The album begins with "The Unfinished," whose synthetic warbles are punctuated by a errant guitar line every now and then. The warble returns in "Under the Water It Glowed," but now the guitar line is more prominent melodically. By this time, it seems that Eluvium's songs are slowed down by some sort of physical effect, like diffraction through water particles. Through the aquatic slowness, the guts of the songor perhaps even its soulare almost seen. "There Wasn't Anything" is a straightforward piano dirge with some overlaid field recordings of voices and conversations, followed by "Zerthis was a Shivering Human Image," a sonorous epic which oscillates between two chords while the surrounding distortion ebbs and flows. Seemingly three thousand scratchy crescendos occur, filtered through a sediment of static. It's one of those songs which causes you to exhale powerfully when it eventually ends, when the tension is finally laid slack. The candor of such Eluvium songs, ones which force a confrontation with the song's guts, is startling. Comparisons to Brian Eno are hard to shrug off for Eluvium, but they are not indictments. This music is of the Eno School (think Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks) and Matthew Cooper would seem to be an Eno acolyte, but the songs are studied without being facsimiles. Lambent Material is a fascinating listen, and when the last song, "I Am So Much More Me That You Are Perfectly You," finally delivers the actual sounds of water and rain beneath the piano's melody, you are reminded that you could have been drowning this whole time and not even noticed it. - Joshua David Mann
The Album Leaf/On Air Library, "A Lifetime or More"
The comforting compositions of Jimmy LaValle and the spacious but dense sounds of On Air Library make for the perfect alone-time listen or perhaps the soundtrack to time spent with a loved one. Everything on this album is a whisper, a gentle breeze passing over my body. The Album Leaf tracks are simple and cascading. Each song begins simply enough and then each element begins to flow into another flawlessly; a river of twinkling percussion and lullabies woven out of dream-stuff. "Lamplight" is certainly a highlight. Its soft-as-a-pillow melody sounds like raindrops falling slowly onto a pond. On Air Library's music is just as beautiful and is a very exciting band for me. "Ex's and Oh's" begins with distant voices and a guitar that reminds me of a tropical beach somwhere at night. The mood is set wonderfully and "Pass the Mic" and "Faux Fromm" do not disappoint. Soft, bouncing guitars and scattered percussion combine in new and surprisingly fresh ways that make for a luscious and inviting listen. Vocals churn and distortion blossoms on "Faux Fromm," a stunning and shining song that makes me feel as if I'm floating through the clouds and into the heavens. When I close my eyes and listen to this, I can't help but think of vacant wharehouses and dimly lit fields in the middle of nowhere. All the songs fit together perfectly on this EP and the musicians here really compliment eachother. I am interested in The Album Leaf more after hearing this and On Air Library is definitely a band to watch for; they have a full length album due out this fall that I cannot wait to hear. - Lucas Schleicher
Waldteufel, "Heimliches Deutschland"
Listening to the anachronistic, neo-pagan German folk music of Waldteufel, one would never suspect that it is the work of two Americans from Portland, Oregon. Normally, I would immediately dismiss this sort of pseudo-European posturing as laughable, but Waldteufel manage to neatly sidestep all of the usual pitfalls that turn this kind of cultural co-opting into a joke. Surprisingly, Heimliches Deutschland (Hidden Germany), is an embarassment of riches: a sincere and beautifully executed set of German "volkische" songs extolling Northern myths, traditions and mysteries. Waldteufel is the duo of Annabel Lee and Markus Wolff, formerly a percussionist for post-industrial agitators Crash Worship. Wolff sings and beats hand drums, while Lee rounds out the sound with violin, viola and accordion. There are some subtle synthesizer flourishes and limited studio effects that help to transport the listener to the Wald Schwarzer (Black Forest) circa 1895. One can almost hear the crackling of the bonfire and the smell of wild boar roasting on the spit as Waldteufel play their revelatory pagan hymns. Other Deutsch-obsessed industrial folksters like Death in June and Der Blutharsch would be far too cynical to produce music this serious, subtle and lovely. Anyone who knows anything about late 19th century German history knows that it was a time of cultural rennaisance and the birth of the "volkische" movement: a movement towards the abandonment of Christianity and an embrace of the ideals and purity of the Aryan tradition. This mythical heritage encompassed occult religious practices, language, politics, and even music. It was this movement that paved the way for the Thule and other underground right-wing groups that eventually brought Hitler and Nazis to power. Although Waldteufel hover dangerously close to this area, their music is untainted by politics or historical revisionism. Markus Wolff writes most of the tracks himself, but a few of the songs are new arrangements of German folk songs from this golden age period. In "Neun Welten All" (The Nine Worlds), Wolff beats out a hand rhythm while his rich baritone is overdubbed with whispers, deep vocal drones, viola and flute. It's all a little messy and underproduced, a conscious aesthetic choice which lends credibility to this material. "Lichtkreuzweihe" (Consecration of the Luminous Cross) is such a deeply heroic ode to Wotan's cross, I feel as if I'm there in a candle-lit Masonic lodge, where Runic magicians make communal music for nobody but themselves. The longest track, "Wotans Wilde Jagd" (Wotan's Wild Hunt), is also the most infectious. It begins with a sythesized horn fanfare that is immediately reminiscent of Wendy Carlos' Mozart renditions for her soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange. Multi-tracked vocals begin, with a hearty, catchy refrain worthy of a biergarten sing-along. The haunting final track "Nachhall," (Reprise) is the strangest of all, an effects-heavy revisit of "The Nine Worlds" that chops up and dubs out the vocals and adds layers of reverb and echo. This is a fittingly spectral end to what must be the most unique and unexpected "retro" albums to come along in quite some time. - Jonathan Dean
Oren Ambarchi / Gunter MÜller / Voice Crack, "Oystered"
On the lowest level, this disc is a dense stream of fascinating sounds that highlight the interaction between these innovative improvisers. The cacophony of buzzing and whirring is not unlike Müller and Voice Crack's other project, Poire_Z, and Ambarchi's processed guitar combines very well with their "cracked everyday electronics" aestheticalmost anti-technology in its espousing of the commonplace. There's a lot to listen for on this disc and it all seems like it belongs, from sine waves to sci-fi tones remeniscent of the sounds in the new Matrix film (but not of the college freshman philosophizing, thankfully). Attempts to put this music on in the background seem futile as it's just too attention-demanding. A few minutes in, it's hard to ignore the storm of sound threatening to tear the room apart. Even when it's a foreboding wall of mechanical noise, this music feels human in its production and arrangement, remeniscent more of the potential for directly conveying emotion with non-traditional instrumentation than of sterile machine music. The disc opens with high tones and some of Müller's "selected percussion" playing a slow, metronomic beat, and the percussive rhythms throughout this CD are probably more overt (relatively speaking) than some of his other work. The piece is pretty nonlinear, which is nice as it's not a blatant "build toward something and come back" formula. It ends with some hypnotic, quiet drones which continue into the second track, where they're joined by some clicking rhythms, buzzing, and slowly modulated oscillations as the music gets a little frenetic. "Grounding Oysters" is static for most of its duration, exploring the subtle interaction between a range of sounds; and "Oystered" ends the disc with more high tones and rhythms. This CD definitely fits well in the canon of these players. While I really enjoy it, I'm not sure if there's much to distinguish it from their other work. But the subtle elements that each member of this collaboration provides make it a fine listen for fans of this type of sound. - Steve Smith
PAPA M, "TWO"
For the second installation in his Audio Tour Diary series, Dave Pajo
presents three more stripped-down tunes, warmly recorded in Chicago,
Bloomington and Los Angeles over the past months. The Papa M arranged "Black
is the Color," showcases his tasteful acoustic guitar picking style with
distant swoops of synthesizer for a reworking that makes the tune his own.
The airy tone of his laid back vocals are jolted on the way out with a
stern, spoken delivery of the song's title. From his association with
Stereolab, the piano and strings-complimented "Mary Was the Kind," pays
tribute to a dear, departed friend Mary Hansen. The strumming guitar progressions
and catchy lyrics and melody on the traditional sounding "World's Greatest
Sin" are evident of just how inside the southern folk songwriting style Pajo
can get, both musical and lyrically. A hint of accordion-type tones make it
all the more convincing. Nested in the last few minutes of the track is an
beautifully uplifting multi-tracked guitar and strings incidental
composition which is just perfect as is. It should be interesting to see if
Pajo works any of the tunes from his on-the-road sessions into his next full
length disc, or if this will be the only recorded performances as they have
a certain charm of being slightly undressed. - Gord Fynes
Yasunao Tone, "Yasunao Tone"
This is one of the finer noise albums I've heard and one that challenges other noise performers to up the ante. While the method in which this record was created is interesting, the actual sounds and rhythms that compose the album are its most attractive elements by far. Yasunao Tone was created by taking various Chinese poems and converting the characters into wave forms via a character recognition program. At first, some of the sounds are extremely disorienting. On "Wounded Man'yo 2/2000," rhythmic howls of mechanical distortion rule but are suddenly replaced by shimmering, static snaps. Drills march foward aggressively and haphazardly until an army of ping-pong balls with heavy metal brains ricochet about and make room for the stuttering prophets and spaceships that follow; each moment of sound is interesting and a story in and of itself. "Wounded Man'yo #36-7," offers a experience similar to the first track, but with a slightly different emphasis. Sounds are given more time to breathe and play out their existence and certain passages have a decidedly more subdued feel to them. Although the first two tracks are not radically different from one another, both offer different experiences and do not feel dull or repetitive next to eachother. The massive and diverse thirty-plus minute closer, "Wounded Soutai Man'yo," is a combination of thick, wall-of-sound sludge attacks, the rhythmic skipping of its predecessors, and brief bouts of silence. Though it is perhaps a bit long, it would be difficult for me to say that anything on this album had me impatiently waiting for its end. By the time the sound draws its own curtain, I feel as if I've experienced something unique. All noise records should be as captivating as this. - Lucas Schleicher
lali puna, "left handed"
With the release of their second full-length album, 2001's Scary World Theory, Lali Puna have not only secured their place as not just another Notwist "side project," but have become one of my favorite groups. It's tough to arrange a schedule when your time is divided amongst a number of other bands, as Marcus Acher (1/2 of the core duo) knows very well. In the time between releases, the group has taken the opportunity to leak out an unsurfaced song and its apparent dub counterpart. "Left Handed" might not have fit in with the languid sounds of Scary World Theory with its punchy rhythms and distorted tonally aggressive guitars, but it is strong enough to stand as a fantastic single track. For the "dub" version, the group took a route that I whole-heartedly support: making something that sounds almost completely different. It's entirely instrumental, a completely different speed, with dub-inspired rhythms, effects, and only a minute few elements carried over from the original. The three-tracker is rounded out with a song -not- originally by the Human League, but ended up on a Human League covers record back in 2000. "Together In Electric Dreams" was the theme to the forgettable '80s film Electric Dreams (originally by Phil Oakey and Giorgio Moroder) and Lali Puna's reinterpretation strays a healthy amount from the original, omitting a wealth of vocals and utilizing the band's almost signature sound of gliding synths, electronic beats, and clean guitar work. While it's always nice to get two new songs from a fave band, I'm actually rather disappointed in the fact that this would have been a great opportunity to include some old 7" tracks, namely the two remixes from the Nin-Com-Pop single and the two songs from the The Safe Side single which has eluded me for years. - Jon Whitney
the evolution control committee, "plagiarythm nation"
Remember that link of the week with the Oscar Meyer Weiner song answering machine lady talking? Well, Mark Gunderson, aka The Evolution Control Committee opens his current full-length masterpiece with that very same woman speaking along to the "Star Spangled Banner" as the "Star Spangled Bologna." Only a few years before people like Kid 606 and Dsico were marrying Missy Elliott with Joy Division, the ECC combined two flavors in perhaps one of the most groundbreaking (yet overlooked) 7" singles of the 1990s, The Whipped Cream Mixes, where Public Enemy raps were matched with the music of Herb Alpbert & the Tijuana Brass. But the ECC aren's just mash-ups and cut-ups, as the Committee (much like Seeland label bosses, Negartivland) provides a healthy amount of gimmicky cheese, twisting and mutating words and songs into sounding like what they want to hear. While this disc compiles some of the finer moments of the ECC in the last few years since, it does also provide some brand new material for underground superstar potential. "I Want A Cookie" jumps out first as a very aggressive self-help sounding woman gives empowerment advice over horn-blaring hip 1960s-retro spy chase music. The classic "Rocked By Rape" is also included with Dan Rather's cut up samples over the ECC's own AC/DC rip off riffs. The rhythmic usage is clever while the output is absolutely hilarious, with examples like "Dramatic Alien Torture" / "Cancer Death Threat Fleeing for Their Lives" / "Voodoo Bizarre Love Triangle," it's hard to keep up and impossible to tune out when playing. Four years after this song first surfaced, it has not lost its charm, however it would have been nice to have a new revisit with all of Dan's quotes from the 2000 US Election Night overnight fiasco! (Search for some of those quotes online some time.) There are some other memorable moments like "Sex Re-Education," the cut-up 1950s-era sex education speech from a dad to his son, but at 29 tracks, there really is a ton of forgettable filler. Jon Whitney
Robert Ashley, "Wolfman"
Feedback as primary means of making live music seems to date from 1964. That was the year that Max Neuhaus debuted his Fontana Mix - Feed (see Brain v06i19) and when Robert Ashley brought fourth his tape, voice and feedback creation The Wolfman. Room feedback occurs when the sound from the loudspeakers in a performance space reflect off walls and ceiling back to the microphone, as opposed to following more direct paths. In essence, the room itself is set up to work as a cavity oscillator. The fun part is that when this happens the sound has the appearance of coming from different points all over the room depending on exactly which reflections or which modes of oscillation dominate. Ashley's design for The Wolfman uses a vocalist in front of the microphone singing gently into the microphone and using his mouth to modulate the room feedback. There is also a tape track, a full spectrum deluge of tape manipulated found sounds, fed into the mix to provoke more variation in the feedback. Just how this works in a performance we will have to imagine since the perceptual effects of being inside the cavity oscillator are completely lost in a mere stereo recording. But what we get on the CD is nonetheless a full scale onslaught of highly dynamic noise that fully holds the attention for its entire 18 minutes. It has a gritty raw energy that any 90s noise artist would be very proud of but the human voice component takes it beyond the realm of mere electronics. The CD has three other early Ashley tape compositions from 1957 to 1964 and of these The Bottleman from 1960 has captivated me. It was originally the soundtrack to a film by George Manupelli featuring a man collecting bottles in various desolate and dilapidated scenes of urban decay. The music is quiet, very slow and has the same kind of insane dark ambience found in the soundtrack to Eraserhead. It is a tape manipulation piece based on contact microphone feedback, found sounds and voice and, as with The Wolfman, it is the vocal component that adds the deepest tensions. Despite never having seen the film, the image of a deranged person wandering around landscapes of discarded life collecting bottles is easily imaged with the music being the soundtrack in the near insane bottleman's mind. Fully deserving its 43 plus minutes on the CD it is really very effective. - tom worster
Electric Six, "Fire"
Do you want to know how they keep starting fires? The Electric Six first gained attention with their single, "Danger! High Voltage," which laid down the blueprint for their dance garage style and penchant for absurd lyrics ("Fire in the disco / Fire in the Taco Bell!"), delivered with conviction by singer Dick Valentine and (alleged guest) Jack White. Their sound was a strange brew of disco beats, surf squalls, and Andrew W.K. party riffing. While that single was immensely enjoyable, its novel, what-the-hell-is-this attraction hinted that the Electric Six might find it hard to keep it up over the course of an entire LP. On Fire, the Detroit residents look to hold you in their grasp with songs that describe their favorite pastimes, which include fire, the night, dancing, nuclear war, women, bars, and synthesizers. Often, their bacchanalian single mindedness leads to redundancy, as on the track "Gay Bar," which commands that together we should "start a nuclear war / at the gay bar," being immediately followed by the song "Nuclear War (On the Dance Floor)." Regardless, the former track is pretty convincing, coming off as the hard rock party anthem of the not to distant future (it has already spawned one of those dancing cat online flash videos). Electric Six manages to top "Danger!" in unusual, unbalanced brilliance with "I'm the Bomb." Maybe I'm just a sucker for a song about, what else, dancing and women, which uses the word "gerrymandering." "Three, two, one, I'm the bomb," declares the chorus, "and I'm ready to go off on your shit." They're sublimely cocky, with a flair for the dramatic and a powerful desire to be looked at. I mean, they yell "Solo!" before they start a guitar solo at least twice. That's how much they want you to pay attention to them. Still, even with those occasional sparks, 'Fire' contains songs like "Electric Demons In Love," "Naked Pictures (Of Your Mother)," and "She's White" which all smear together in a blur of generic lack of inspiration. Their original themes never vary much, and the frequent overlap tends to make for a tedious listen, in total. Fire doesn't do much to dispel the label of novelty that "Danger!" found attached to it, and that's what makes the moments of quirk so fun. - Michael Patrick Brady
With a warning on the disc advising of potential damage to certain audio
systems (headphone use not advisable), the self-titled second release from
Chicago avant-rock quartet Sterling lets loose a hybrid of compositions that
could be the bastard child of jazz, classical and metal, conceived during a
Dario Argento flick. Driven by syncopated, jazzy drumming that gets
heavy-handed when called for, weaving, distorted bass and twin guitars that
have that fat hollow-body tone, the disc's eight untitled, angular
compositions evoke a soundtrack sensibility for something somber left to the
imagination. The liberal use of tastefully played piano, at times drawing
from the lower register, adds that extra dimension that not only enhances
the building tension, but also heightens the anxiety that goes along with
it. Although some of the tracks can be lengthy, the interesting and
explorative compositions move seamlessly throughout sections with at times a
pregnant pause which gives way for an explosive return to the earlier motif
that kicked the whole thing off (insert pronged rawk hand sign here). The
rough moments of overdrive occurring in the production department
characterize the aforementioned warning, while at the same time becoming an
almost integral part of the existing track. If the band's hometown is said
to be the birthplace of post-rock, Sterling have taken their imaginative
musical vision into an area of post-mortem rock. Beware. - Gord Fynes
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.