Dean Roberts, "Be Mine Tonight"
Dean Roberts begins his new three song album on Kranky with a steady drone which, on first listen, seems to promise (or at least implies) that the entire 35-minutes of the CD will feature this drone. I have listened to enough experimental rock albums to know that an initial drone offering will often persist and become a final drone coda, with only subtle key alterations and modulations to lend it some "experimentalism." But about two minutes into "All Pidgins Sent to War, Palace of Adrenaline V. & E.E." a softly-struck piano emerges through the monotone, signaling a nice diversion from my expectations. Instead, Roberts delivers something lighter, something more palatable, more spare, even something more lyrical. At this point, the song blossoms instrumentally, with guitar, brushed cymbals, light percussion, upright bass, and plodding piano all tentatively joining together with Roberts's voice. It all sounds rather improvisational, with the guitars mulling over the same measured progressions while the other instruments meander over the guitars. All this is done at a rather slow pace. Roberts seems to justify his deliberateness with improvisation. At the end of the first track, the spareness gathers itself and makes one last valiant attempt at density. It feels as if the players are almost strangling the last bit of life out the their instruments. Witnessing this instrumental asphyxiation, I felt some slightly perverted pleasure when I thought about this act done solely on my behalf, or on the behalf of the listener. It's like seeing a boyfriend pummel another boy for talking to you, just to show you he can. It's sick, but it's also impressive to demand such brutality. Speaking of brutality, Roberts's voice on the first song wavers not unlike the white winged moth he uses as another moniker for his recordings. It is not a pleasant or soothing voice and it has the nagging after-effect of an untrained instrument, like a third grade oboe. But it gets better. In the more compact (5 minutes, versus 19 minutes and 11 minutes on the two other songs) "Disappearance on the Grandest of Streets," Roberts finds a definitive melody and tune for his voice and the song is bolstered by it. This song is the most confident offering of the three, whereas the other two range a little too far this way and that way, with too much space and time between them. Likewise, the most compelling part of "All Pidgins..." is the last two minutes (though the second half of this 19-minute composition is genuinely excellent and, perhaps, a song distinct from the first half in and of itself). It seems that both Roberts's voice and songs flourish within boundaries, a moth which does its best fluttering in a jar. - Joshua David Mann
Neil Michael Hagerty, "The Howling Hex"
With his third solo record after the dissolution of Royal Trux, Neil Michael Hagerty finally feels like he's hit his stride and is firmly residing in his comfort zone. There is an ease and confidence to the songs and his voice on The Howling Hex that suggests the sometimes novelist and multi-instrumentalist is comfortable in letting his often juxtaposing styles just exist and letting the tape roll. The album is essentially three separate recording sessions with three live tracks interspersed that seem to be grouped thematically after that to form four sections of the album. A lot of the songs don't even hit the three-minute mark, and sometimes that's a shame but mostly it's just perfect. The aura of these songs is all over the map, with sometimes sexy horns and raunch driving the proceedings, sometimes standard bass-drums-guitar fueling the random ramblings. Over it all, the driving force is the volatile vocals of Hagerty, calling for your first-born child or the end of it all, and changing, chameleon-like, for whatever comes next. The most impressive aspects are the brevity and bare-bones approach to most tracks. There are no unnecessary ingredients, no noodling or canoodling, just what it takes to finish the song off. And it all feels right. In fact, the longest tracks are the live tracks, which are especially revealing, letting a hint of the raw power turn on in what almost seems like mostly improvised and extended versions of two previously released songs from his first two records and a new long jam. There seems to be a warts-and-all approach at play, and maybe that's another reason it's so refreshing, like it doesn't always have to be dense and calculated. Certainly it's not easy listening, but it sounds easier on the man who dishes it out, at least. - Rob Devlin
Coldcut's 70 Minutes of Madness, DJ Shadow's Diminishing Returns, DJ/rupture's Gold Teeth Thief and now K.I.M.'s Miyage together present a convincing argument for the mix CD as a viable art form. With the sheer volume of recorded music available to the average crate digger through record stores, internet auctions, GEMM, and file-sharing there is a larger palette than ever before for a creative individual to select and sequence a group of songs to deliver a powerful aesthetic message, to alter perceptions of music and genre, and to entertain. K.I.M.'s Miyage, recently released on Tigersushi, manages all three. Tigersushi is an online music community that specializes in leftfield dance and avant-groove. Their unique musical aesthetic cuts across avant-disco, krautrock, early industrial, leftfield house and modern IDM. Tigersushi Recordings, though barely a year old, has already released a clutch of fantastic 12" singles, and their No G.D.M. compilation featured an impressively eclectic selection of forgotten vintage sides from the likes of Gina X Performance, Material and Cluster. Miyage goes ten steps further, kicking out a flawless set that had me scrutinizing the tracklist in wonderment. The mix is equal parts groovy and exotic, moody and surreal, fragile and extreme. There is a focused exotica vibe running through the tracks chosen, apparent from the first track, a field recording of wind blowing through an Aeolian organ on the Solomon Islands. It's the perfect lead-in for Arthur Lyman's Polynesian jazz excursion "Ringo Oiwake." John Zorn plagiarized this track (without giving credit) on his exotica album The Gift. It blends seamlessly into a whimsical overture by French film composer Francois de Roubaix. K.I.M. also contribute several transitional tracks to the mix, using their considerable gifts to create the perfect rhythmic bridges between disparate musical ideas. Wevie Stonder's "Gypsy Chimp" is one of the most hilarious cut n' splice tracks I've ever heard, a bizarrely infectious song that matches Gypsy fiddles with kazoos, jungle sounds and hicupping vocals. Cut to uber-diva Edith Piaf's incomparable "Jezebel," and a slow dissolve to street performer and self-taught outsider Moondog's "Viking I," a beautifully primitive piece for hand drums and xylophone. A quick journey through pipe organ improvs, Javanese tribal chanting, and Japan's wonderful Asa Chang & Junray, and we somehow end up in the middle of a rooftop-lifting gospel-disco meltdown mixed by legend Larry Levan. I'm not sure it makes any sense, but I'm happy to be swept along in this idiosyncratic journey. Jack-in-the-box melodies from Pierre Bastien and a tree falling in the woods segue into the overblown rock-disco of Psychic TV's "Ov Power," a welcome bit of nostalgia from the glory days of Genesis P. After a terrific cut by cult rockers The Gun Club, the disc ends with K.I.M.'s rendition of The Smiths' paean to vegetarianism "Meat is Murder." It's given the laptop and vocoder treatment familiar from Schneider TM's cover of The Smiths' "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out." Okay, so it's not an original idea, but it still works perfectly, ending the disc on a note of politicism and melancholy. Simply put, this is a brilliant set, the one to beat for future compilers of eclectic mix discs. - Jonathan Dean
CHICKEN LIPS, "DJ KICKS"
Past volumes of !K7's DJ Kicks series have featured the estimable talents of Tiga, Playgroup's Trevor Jackson and Carl Craig, each taking their turn at the mixing table producing extended DJ mixes that combined newer underground club hits with classic dancefloor material and the odd crate-digging gem. They each had their moments, but for the most part, they were entirely predictable. I mean, who couldn't have guessed that Playgroup's mix would lean heavily on leftfield disco, or that Tiga would fill his set with uber-sassy electro? For me, the gratification of a great DJ mix lies in hearing unexpected juxtapositions of the alien and familiar, or unearthed vintage rarities recontextualized to sound modern. The new entry in the DJ Kicks series, mixed by Chicken Lips, delivers on this promise. Chicken Lips eschew the notion of a continuous, danceable groove, focusing instead on all manner of retro-cheese, bizarro disco, boogie and psychedelic lounge to create an eclectic mix perfectly suited to headphone listening. In this sense, it shares more in common with DMC's artist-choice Back to Mine series. Chicken Lips are the British duo of Andrew Meecham and Dean Meredith, the same pair behind early-90's acid-house outfit Bizarre Inc. As Chicken Lips, Andy and Dean are masters of the disco-dub, a British movement utilizing loops of inane and/or obscure vintage dance sides. In a bid to prove their undying fascination with the Weird Groove, Chicken Lips open their unique set with the deeply odd kraut-lounge of Brainticket, one of the more eccentric of the 70's kosmische groups. This psychedelic oddity segues into Herbert's beautifully trippy re-assembling of Karin Krog's Northern Soul classic "Meaning of Love." Then Chicken Lips take a sharp right turn, dropping the novelty hip-hop of Jimmy Spicer's "The Bubble Bunch," which sounds uncannily like "The Bertha Butt Boogie" (fans of Rhino's Super Hits of the 70's will understand this reference). This madness somehow morphs into the proto-sampling of 4AD's Colourbox and the outrageously fucked rhythms of Nina Hagen's "African Reggae." An extended selection of mutant disco tracks pave the way for the esoteric house of The Paul Simpson Connection.
A short stop in the dusty dub of Rhythm and Sound and the phased avant-funk of The Raincoats' "Animal Rhapsody," and it's time to pull into Freak Station with the wacky Tropi-disco of George Duke's "Brazilian Love Affair" and Chicken Lips' own hard-hitting funk number "Bad Skin." It's an eclectic mix with loads of personality, and the best DJ Kicks yet, methinks. - Jonathan Dean
"SERIE NOIRE 2: MIXED BY THE GLIMMER TWINS"
The first volume of Serie Noire on Belgium's Eskimo Recordings was subtitled Dark Pop and New Beat. That mix was one of my favorites, with an impressive clarity of vision that imagined a postmodern combination of great, forgotten 80's new wave (Vicious Pink and Executive Slacks), post-punk disco (Section 25), hilariously unexpected selections from seemingly off-topic artists (The Alan Parsons Project and John Carpenter) and newer material that slotted in perfectly (Metro Area). Serie Noire 2 is a sequel in name only, sharing none of the impeccable taste in track selection and seamless mixing that characterized the first mix. The tracks on Serie Noire 2 are mostly uninspired, many of them wearing out their welcome after a minute or two, suggesting that The Glimmer Twins need to become more comfortable with The Fader Button. Many of the tracks chosen for Serie Noire 2 are of questionable worthiness, which tends to happen if you've been crate-digging a little too long: eventually, you reach the bottom of the crate. Boytronic's "Bryllyant" opens the set, a mildly diverting gloomy electro track straight out of Miami Vice. It's the soundtrack to Crockett and Tubbs coked up, exploring each other's bodies. This segues into a couple of best-forgotten 80's acts - Savage Process and Blancmage - the former a crappy industrial-pop group trying to sound sexy, the latter a hopelessly cheesy new romantic band. Die Warzau is a poor man's Nitzer Ebb, and Nitzer Ebb were already a poor man's Skinny Puppy, so their track "Strike To The Body" is about as awful as it gets. Congratulations to The Glimmer Twins for being the millionth recent dance mix to include Liaisons Dangereuses' "Peut etre...Pas." Liaisons' self-titled LP was released in 1981, but its recent reissue has made it far more popular now than it ever was in its own day. Giorgio Moroder's "Evolution" is one of the more boring rock-disco tracks I've heard from the usually talented producer. Sandy Steel's cover of Delta V's "Mind Your Own Business" has some of the same feminist energy as the original, but I still prefer the Chicks on Speed version. P.I.L.'s "Death Disco" is one of the rawest punk-funk tracks from back in the day, but the "Megga Mix" included here renders it all but unrecognizable. Some rather pathetic German new-wave bands end the mix; nothing remarkable. Deejay Gigolos' recent New Deutsch compilation was uneven, but for my money, it was much more successful at unearthing obscure German funk and industrial than these guys. Recent personal-choice compilations and mixes such as Ladytron's Softcore Jukebox and Felix Da Housecat's Bugged In have done a much better job of remaining interesting for their entire length. Serie Noire 2 is a waste of my time. - Jonathan Dean
DR. LEKTROLUV, "LEKTROKUTED"
I have a weak spot for good Detroit electro. I'm endlessly turned on by those repetitive beats, that dystopian future groove, those analog peaks and valleys. Because of this fetish, my collection contains far more of this stuff than is probably healthy, but certainly favorites have emerged: Juan Atkins, Drexciya, Dopplereffekt and Cybotron, to name a few. I have also tuned in to the current of newer techno acts piggybacking themselves on the Detroit sound, and for the most part, I have been quite disappointed. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it's also the sincerest form of boredom. Dr. Lektroluv's new continuous mix of neo-electro acts highlights some of these problems. The first two tracks are perfectly realized classic Detroit sides, but then the mix takes a turn for the worse by lingering a little too long on purposely weird, self-consciously retro stuff. The problem with "electroclash" is that much of the artists have forgone musical inventiveness and production acumen in favor of very heavy-handed, simplistic techniques that become dull after thirty seconds. For all of their cleverness, a lot of these bands would have a real problem creating a track as good as Model 500's "Night Drive," made twenty years ago without the benefit of a laptop. Some of the artists here are quite good: Octagon Man, Silicon Sally and the now-ubiquitous Liaisons Dangereuses. Did all the DJs in the world meet over the summer and make a pact to spin "Peut Etre...Pas" until everyone was completely sick of it? Radioactive Man's "Do The Radioactive" is an interestingly textured track, not surprising since his volume of the Fabric series was one of my favorites of the year. Ersatz Audio' Kitbuilders pipe in with an unbelievably overblown epic disco-house track with pretentious lyrics. The last part of the mix really loses steam, with weak tracks from the omnipresent Adult. and the overrated Crossover. T. Raumschmiere's glam-punk stomper "The Game Is Not Over" is probably my favorite single of the year, but it feels strange sandwiched between a retarded retro track and the lightweight Oriental disco of Yellow Magic Orchestra's "Behind the Mask." In the final analysis, there is absolutely no reason to buy or listen to this mix. Get one of those CD-burning programs that have a cross-fading feature and make your own mix: it's bound to sound better than this. - Jonathan Dean
Loopian Zu, "Submerged"
The idea of hip hop beats or samples mixed with other live instruments can go like crunchy or smooth peanut butter: it goes down easy or it needs some chewing but either way it sticks to you. I like my peanut butter smooth, and Loopian Zu lay it down with an even coat so that I don't even need the second slice of bread. Then they throw on some odd and crazy improvisation that takes it to a higher plane that is still smooth, but can cause some confusion if you don't know where to point your ears or your mind. Not to worry, as it all plays out in the end as a very coagulated whole, where every move is not necessarily planned, but the members are firing on the same cylinders so it all feeds the beast within. "Regents Park" is full-on mad drum glory with scratches and squelches of fancy, mixed with killswitch classical vocals thrown in for good measure. Then, the fantastic two-part track fades in with smooth horns and guitars before dissolving into cacaphonic noise and horn and drum rambling that do Miles Davis proud. They blend their influences with almost equal airing and time, not in some bouillabaisse that sounds indistinguishable. The horn section is the focal point of many tracks, and they nail it down tight. Loopian Zu are clever and sneaky, not blunt and unimaginative, and the main difference is artistry. "Nuso" is the flagship, with awesome solo voice question and chorus answer vocals, all anchored with the same dub or jazz basecoat. Some awkward moments exist within the same formula, like "Foot Prince & the Emergent Sea," which annoys with its "Love in an Elevator" beginning and muddled progression vocally and instrumentally. What it builds to is anti-climactic and meandering. No matter: they've already made their point, and it's a small pothole on the highway. I still felt moved by it, and didn't need anything to help wash it down. - Rob Devlin
Microstoria, "Invisible Architecture #3"
The music of Jan St. Werner and Markus Popp has always been, for me, a heartening, if predictable listen. While their separate activities like Oval and Mouse on Mars have seen considerable evolution over the years, St. Werner and Popp's collaborative project Microstoria has remained a somewhat static affair. Unfortunately, while previous installments in the Invisible Architecture series joined several idiosyncratic artists in collaboration or improvisation, this fifth volume features only Microstoria, with no foreign body to alter their established sound. What's more, the music is a 2000 live performance containing only songs from the group's two latest albums, that year's Model 3, Step 2, and 1996's _snd. True, the seven songs here are some of Microstoria's best, and several are extended far longer than their album versions, most notably a double-length, eight-minute "Soso Sound." The lack, however, of any new material, and the music's relatively strict adherence to album precedents, make this a mediocre release and unessential listening for previous fans. New listeners, however, should find this disc a perfect introduction to the work of two consistently fascinating music-makers. The live environment contributes to a looser sound with more rough edges showing, and highlights the aspect of Microstoria's music that has always been the most appealing to my ears, the childlike abandon seen waning in the recent solo efforts of both St. Werner and Popp (excepting Popp's excellent So record). The latter's distorted rumblings and swift jump cuts have never been so wistfully assembled, coupling beautifully with St. Werner's meandering melodics, gathered as effortlessly and organically from a guitar as from a PowerBook. The low-end has not been much a part of the duo's bag of tricks, but here droning bass is surprisingly effective and often jarring, no doubt meant to enliven the live experience but translating nicely to disc. That said, there is nothing too striking or really "new" about this recording, though it is anything but boring and certainly as beautiful as anything Microstoria has produced to date. Those hungry for something new might wait for the new full-length to be released soon.- Andrew Culler
1-Speed Bike, "El Gallito"
A sense of humor never hurts when there's no real central theme to spoil with it. Beginning with the plainly announced statement "I am the ruler of the world, ordained by God. I am George W. Bush," this razor-sharp EP never lets go, pounding the hell out of my ears with mortar shell beats and rapid-fire melody wiggles. It isn't exactly clear if 1-Speed Bike is trying be funny or just have a good time, but the results of his dashing drum programming and science-experiment melodies are zany and comic tunes. "Bleeched Bumbaclot Warning" starts off as a series of extra hyper snare rolls and bubbling flasks before turning into an odd commercial for hallucinogenics use by slapping a strangely slow guitar and keyboard melody over the now spasmodic rhythm section. I somehow get images of small animals (in cartoon form) bouncing about my head while travelling through hyperspace in an episode of some really cheesey sci-fi flick. The Hrsta remixes included (as well as the second half of the CD) are a little less out-of-control and feature more droned out samples drooling under obviously live samples of drum performance. This isn't the most innovative thing in the world, but there's something humorous and oddly exaggerated about the whole disc and that only lends to its appeal. It would've been nice to hear some more comic commentary on the disc after laughing my ass off at the material on the first track, but the chill-out section at the end is a nice relief and contrast against the all out attack of the first half of the EP. I was surprised to hear this coming from GY!BE's drummer and quite frankly I was happy to hear such a drastic difference. Sure, there's a political message here, but how seriously should that be taken when "I am handsome like Donald Rumsfeld" and "I am believer in truth and justice like motherfuckin' Tony Blair" are uttered just about a minute apart? - Lucas Schleicher
Kid 606, "Kill Sound Before Sound Kills You"
"The Illness" bombastically opens the second full-length release on Ipecac for Kid 606. It's a refreshing change from what seemed like an endless parade of songs entirely built on popular hip hop samples, which, frankly got really old, really quick. From minute one, we're dancing again: it's not a just a barrage of noise and it makes nearly everything since the last full-length record seem like filler. It seems that an attention on both song structure and fun stuff are being given nearly equally. However, some of my favorite elements like melody and consistency within a few tracks are forfeitted by a strong attention defeceit, but it's always been a 606-ism, dating back to the Vinyl Communication days. Much like his last Ipecac full-lengther (gosh was it over three years ago already?) Kill Sound is much like a collection of sorts, providing slices of the various styles 606 has tackled over the years. There's plenty of nightmarish upbeat post-gabber noisefests like "Powerbookfiend" and the b-side to The Illness, "Ecstasy Motherfucker," while downtempo breathers like "Andy Warhol is Dead" and the serene closer "Parenthood" are very pretty but a bit too short. Wayne Lonesome, a dancehall DJ/vocalist from Kingston arrives on the scene (most likely through the Bug and Rootsman connection) to give voice for "Buckle Up," which is probably the strongest track on the disc (look for a hot 12" on the new offshoot Shockout). At times, riffs are started but neither strengthened nor mutated, making repetition of ideas and lingering memories a bit difficult. The psycho-dub bass riff at the end of "Who Wah Kill Sound?" for example aches to be exploited and mutated, but is left pretty much alone. What is repeated, (or perhaps overused), are some of the samples used throughout different tracks. (God I wish he gave up the "yeah, wow" bit was killed after the first song.) Those who have been able to catch 606 live this past year have probably noticed how much more dense the music seems to be becoming, and in most respects, this album is a fun dance party, but he's proven that he has the ability to make a few brilliant songs completely over the top, and after seeing a fantastic live show, I may be guilty of expecting something ever so slightly more on an album. The addition of the video for "The Illness," however, is awesome, as a cartoon kitten tries to kill sound before sound kills him. - Jon Whitney
The Sems, "Drift"
Just when I thought I was through with all of these worthless bands with "The" in the title like it's something important that they're "The" anything here comes one I adore, and will be listening to for years to come. The Sems is essentially Pete Bogolub, who wrote and recorded the lion's share of the album at home, bringing in some friends later on to augment it and make it all sound like a soul bursting at its seams. His is a raw and simple indie pop sound, with space rock leanings and fascinating melodies. Bogolub is shy about his vocals, it would seem, as they are drowned out by the music and drenched in effects, but his faint whispers are just what is needed here and there. The music and subject matter take interesting twists and turns, sometimes separate, sometimes together and it's a bit startling but desperately wanted once I got used to it. The switch from "Harmless" (shoegazer) to "Stalker But Nice" (noise pop), on to "Curlew" (ethereal ambience) and then "Speak Softly" (more noise pop) is an especially jarring progression, but after that the album settles into a nice calm and even jangly pace. It's there that the bravery comes on a little more in instrumentation and vocals, but it's never over a certain even keel, and that's where the real beauty is. The earlier tracks have an unadulterated passion to be sure, but the latter half has sweetness and comfort to spare, with enough minor detours of fancy to make the heart ache and the brain swell. These musings are not complicated or even challenging: just straight-ahead power pop with some depth and definition. For Audraglint's first CD release and The Sems debut I don't think there are better results to be found. - Rob Devlin
The Dead C, "The Damned"
Starlight Furniture Co.
Both 2000's eponymous double album and 2001's New Electric Music have shown New Zealand's famed noise rockers moving (perhaps lurching) towards a more sparse, more seductive sound. Though any Dead C record will inevitably contain enough variety to postpone classification and prolong interest, the group's post-millenium output so far has predicted a steady increase in song quality, as well as more broad, stylistic refinement. The shoddily-produced, clattering heap of guitar, bass, and drum noise that was the signature sound of early Dead C has taken a thinner, more bottom-heavy, and more atmospheric form as of late, with concentration on complex textures and assemblage rather than riff torture. Surely none of this has been enough to alienate fans of the earlier, junkier, rockist style; the Dead C seems a band that consistently skirts expectation, only to receive little or no acknowledgement for their efforts. They've never quite escaped the stigma that reduces them to lo-fi, feedback-happy sludge rockers, and their fans strangely adore them for it. Do true appreciators of the Dead C occupy some hidden corner of the elitist camp, brandishing their treasure like some jagged crystal? I like to think so, though The Damned, like any new release by the band, has me confused. Half of the disc's six tracks are of the same ill-produced, tripping-over-itself, psych/noise thump that the C have mined for years. Elsewhere, songs like the aptly-named "Atmosphere," feature the group at their most hypnotic, riding waves of distortion, amp buzz, and shuddering guitar screech, patient in its development and highly effective. The louder, busier tracks do not work as well, often losing focus and drifting aimlessly, but on tracks like "The Provider," the band proves it can create thoroughly gripping, even unique music from the most derivative of forms. With each new release, the Dead C identity inches closer to what I've suspected they were all along, more of an institution than a unit bound by rules of time or progress. The group plays as if preaching, by compulsion. They may not be believed, but they will be heard. They may repeat and contradict, but the germ of what they are doing is always audible. Epic four-track noise jams to play on repeat: this is why I listen.
- Andrew Culler
This is precisely what I would expect from a band that's trying to change the world and sound extraordinarly unique. It's all over-the-top and contrived to the point of oblivion. It's as if the band got together and said to themselves "Lets be a whacky group of pseudo-anti-somethings and write annoying lyrics with even more annoying performances thereof while also trying to imitate some of those tripped out black and white cartoons from way back in the day." I can see it, now: this band is going to be called amazing and inventive because their live act is akin to a sideshow circus (see the video included on the CD) and their album features amazing sonic tangents that light up the speakers in ways never thought possible. I'll be the first to say that's a load of shit. There's nothing here I haven't heard before and I've heard it done a thousand times better. This is popular music wrapped up in a hipster burrito so as to be acceptable to people that find The Strokes and The White Stripes unacceptable for whatever asthetic reasons that come to mind. To be specific, the track "Mor Grl Cops" features a near metal-esque guitar rhythm section combined with a gypsy violin, a child-like choir, some drugged lead vocalist, and some guy that likes to scream "if life were a game / you'd say shoot shoot / bang bang and your dead." At times I think the vocalists must want to create a nightmarish listening experience where guttural whines and Yoko Ono screeches mix in a soup of acoustic strumming and those all too predictable chord progressions. In the end, it all ends up sounding way too typical. I was able to predict when weird sounds were going to be used, I knew when the breakdowns were coming, and I knew from the first note how thespian the singer would get with his performance. It's predictable to say the least and in the end the whole package betrays the image it wishes to portray thanks to the band's concentrated attempt at coming off as something esoteric, mysterious, and important. I've been told noise is an annoying genre, but noise has never given me a headache like 1:3:1 has. - Lucas Schleicher
Sweet Trip, "Velocity:Design:Comfort"
Sweet Trip have never made much sense to me, and they make even less with this record. It's always been too much a sound drenched in the Daft Punk motif for me, and this record continues in that vein. Dense electronics swirl and build towards an aural climax only to be repeatedly foiled throughout by premature earjaculation, where the eardrums give out or the cerebral cortex just gives up. Sure, I guess all the right elements are there, with the clever arrangements by Roby and pure saccharine vocals by Valerie Reyes, but it's nothing earth-shattering or even noteworthy that hasn't been traveled before by better artists. There's a blatant largesse in these songs, where everything is louder than it should be, has more going on than is needed, and takes way too long to end something that probably was best not even beginning. As annoying as Daft Punk are ("One More Time," anyone?), they seem to know when to call it quits or to keep it short. Not Sweet Trip, on the other hand, who feature three songs over the eight minute mark with one honorable mention at two seconds shy, and I can't even tell you one part I liked on them. "Velocity" shivers and shakes too much to get where it's going, and then when it gets there it feels like dancehall trash. "International" languishes, bleeding like a stuck pig, waiting for an inspiration of meaning, only to result to cut-up vocals and beats that sounded better when Dntel or Four Tet did them. And "Sept" is only rendered interesting by the fantastic tabla work by guest Aaron Porter; after that, it's fairly by the book electronic indie pop, but goes on far too long for its own good. Elsewhere, the jarring Europop of "Dsco" sounds like Robbie Williams and Sophie Ellis Bextor's ugly offspring, and "To All the Dancers..." sounds like a cheap imitation of some of Björk's best remixes. Still not clear to me, but not dead to me just yet. - Rob Devlin
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