Thursday, December 30, 2010

Gluey Porch Treatments - (1987, 2001)

The second and last album done with Lukin keeps the Melvins' freak flag flying. Starting with the slow-as-hell "Eye Flys," which, if nothing else, shows off Osbourne's skill at monster soloing while Crover and Lukin play a rhythm that would be too slow even for funerals, Gluey Porch Treatments is, to a large extent, more of the same. Then again, with the possible exception of St. Vitus, not many other bands out there were embracing the love of sludge metal monstrosities as the threesome was (just compare it what Ozzy Osbourne himself was doing at the time). "Exact Paperbacks" alone would have eaten most purportedly loud groups for breakfast without even trying. The combination of sudden, herky-jerky thrash (but not thrash metal) and epic stomp and sprawl once again did wonders here. Meanwhile, Osbourne's attempts to remold the singing on "God of Thunder" into a new guise for the underground ("Bitten Into Sympathy" in particular sounds like the ultimate fusion of Gene Simmons' voice and Tony Iommi's riffs) means his voice once more sounds just ridiculously perfect. Drawn-out syllables at the end of lines descending into murk, bellowing half-understandable insanities, flanged warbles and squeals: It's all there. Crover has some great fun with drums at points -- check out the start of "Influence of Atmosphere," where the echo on his fills and pounds just makes it all the more nuttily dramatic, or the equally strong conclusion of "Leech." Besides the title track, other examples of the band's perverse wit via song title includes "Steve Instant Newman" and the perfectly descriptive "Heaviness of the Load." After being unavailable for years, Gluey Porch Treatments finally got rereleased in 2001 with a slew of demo cuts perfect for pounding your head further into your torso.

Metallic Spheres - (2010)

Early in their career, the Orb were accused (but never proven) of releasing a series of bootleg trance mixes of Pink Floyd albums, and the group had plenty of other Floydian references too -- most obviously, the Battersea Power Station appeared or was parodied on several of their releases. The connection only became direct, though, in 2009, when David Gilmour recorded a version of the Graham Nash single "Chicago" with help from producer Youth, an occasional member of the Orb going back to the early '90s. It was a charity single to aid accused hacker Gary McKinnon, but it became the springboard for further collaboration one year later, after Orb main man Dr. Alex Paterson, became involved. Metallic Spheres is the result, a 49-minute odyssey that is very intentionally split up into only two tracks. The Orb fans and Pink Floyd fans should have no trouble with this album. In fact, Orb fans will find more resemblance to their classic early-'90s sound than ever; that is, less dense soundworlds and more skeletal groove-riding over a lazy 4/4 beat. Meanwhile, Pink Floyd fans looking for the imprint of the master will find them everywhere: Gilmour's guitar or lap steel, and rarely, his vocals (sampled from "Chicago") feature all over this record, mostly reminiscent of either the countrified haze originally heard on Meddle or the, well, spacy haze on The Dark Side of the Moon. Boasting few landmarks, the record simply rolls along with all the sublime calm of The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld or the "Echoes" portion of Meddle.

Dust Lane - (2010)

Even in the Information Age, the world still hasn't become quite so small as people like to think. Otherwise, a talent like Yann Tiersen wouldn't have avoided international recognition for so long. French composer/multi-instrumentalist Tiersen is a classically trained musician who came of age in the post-punk era, and both of those musical worlds inform his work. Despite many years of high-profile solo albums, soundtracks, and collaborations with everyone from Jane Birkin to the Divine Comedy, Dust Lane is his first album for a U.S. label. It's a rich, moody, multi-layered work that finds Tiersen showing off his instrumental prowess and playing a wide array of instruments from strings to synthesizers on his haunting classical/rock compositions. Vocal-oriented tracks like "Fuck Me" show Tiersen's poppier side, achieving an infectious, anthemic sound somewhere between M83 and Broken Social Scene, while "Ashes" seems more in line with the extensive soundtrack work he's done in the past as it builds gradually from tension-building strings and horror-film piano plunking to fuzzed-out guitar squalls and choral vocal chants. The dominant feeling on Dust Lane, though, is that of an artist who reveres Ravel and the Swans in equal measure, as exemplified by "Dark Stuff" and "Palestine," where deeply muttered spoken vocals punctuate a dark, dramatic blend of driving, rock-derived rhythms, European folk modalities, and a symphonic brand of sonic conception that sets Tiersen apart from mere murky moodmeisters. Dust Lane is the kind of record that draws you into its own little world and sweeps you along with its journey, as unsettling as it is intriguing. (

Monday, December 27, 2010

Film And Video Series Volume 2 - Strange Culture/Haeckel's Tale - (2010)

Film and video Series 2 Strange Culture - director Lynn Hershman (Conceiving Ada) 2005 The surreal nightmare of internationally-acclaimed artist and professor Steve Kurtz began when his wife Hope died in her sleep of heart failure. Police who responded to Kurtz's 911 call deemed Kurtz's art suspicious and called the FBI. Within hours the artist was detained as a suspected "bioterrorist" as dozens of federal agents in Hazmat suits sifted through his work and impounded his computers, manuscripts, books, his cat, and even his wife's body. Haeckel's tale - director John McNaughton (Henry Portait of a Serial Killer) Showtime 2005 19th Centrury horror tale. Sound track not used in broadcast version. Exclusive release.

Good Day Today - (2010)

Lynch’s creative output has long been an inspiration for countless electronic music producers. Now he draws on his seemingly endless creative reserves as he succinctly sums up years of musical experimentation into his first ever solo electronic production. With a stamp that is undoubtedly Lynch, “Good Day Today” features the legend himself on vocals and on production duties. There can be no higher accolade for the electronic genre that Lynch has chosen to launch a solo project in part inspired by electronic music. “Good Day Today” was mistakenly credited to Underworld by Jason Bentley due to its warm synth sounds when it first aired on his hugely influential Los Angeles-based KCRW radio show “Morning Becomes Eclectic.” The debate about who created this track is still raging via the Underworld website and message boards—some testament to Lynch’s first electronic outing. Bentley put the record into the hands of Sunday Best Recordings director Ben Turner at the International Music Summit in Ibiza. Turner played the record to label head Rob da Bank and the pair snapped up the release soon after, signing the track for the world.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Experimental Jet Set, Trash And No Star - (1994)

Whereas Dirty and its predecessors were loud, distorted, and bordering on the fine line between pop and noise, Experimental Jet Set, Trash & No Star did away with the ear-bleeding guitar feedback so often attributed to the group. The group retained its quirky twist on pop/rock song structures, moving even closer to a consistent use of the verse-chorus-verse template. Of course, the disregard for mosh-friendly guitar riffs, lack of crowd-surfing intensity, and increasing traces of normalcy killed a large part of the group's momentous surge in popular acceptance, damning them once again to the status of often misunderstood artists. Popular opinion may have wanted more rock than what Sonic Youth wanted to deliver on this album, yet upon careful inspection, Experimental Jet Set, Trash & No Star still out-noises the majority of its peers. Butch Vig's clean production makes the album seem clean, when in actuality it is nearly as dirty as the group's preceding effort. Songs such as "Starfield Road" and the acoustic song "Winner's Blues" emanate plenty of raw spontaneity, even with Vig's crystal clear production. Relative to Sonic Youth's greater body of work, the album does seem rather sedate, though. The noises resonate subtly rather than mangle one's eardrum. In sum, this record must be considered the closest the group has ever gone to straight-ahead pop/rock. With all of the feedback, murky production, incoherent song structuring, and rambunctious charisma stripped away, what remains are odd lyrics and unique guitar nuance. In other words, Experimental Jet Set, Trash & No Star features the underlying foundation of the group's music standing naked, without any of their traditionally excessive static to heighten it. (

Experimental Jet Set, Trash And No Star - Early Rough Mixes

Doc At The Radar Station - (1980)

Generally acclaimed as the strongest album of his comeback, and by some as his best since Trout Mask Replica, Doc at the Radar Station had a tough, lean sound owing partly to the virtuosic new version of the Magic Band (featuring future Pixies sideman Eric Drew Feldman, New York downtown-scene guitarist Gary Lucas, and a returning John "Drumbo" French, among others) and partly to the clear, stripped-down production, which augmented the Captain's basic dual-guitar interplay and jumpy rhythms with extra percussion instruments and touches of Shiny Beast's synths and trombones. Many of the songs on Doc either reworked or fully developed unused material composed around the time of the creatively fertile Trout Mask sessions, which adds to the spirited performances. Even if the Captain's voice isn't quite what it once was, Doc at the Radar Station is an excellent, focused consolidation of Beefheart's past and then-present.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Teenage Jesus And The Jerks - (1979)

The first band formed by vocalist/guitarist/provocateur Lydia Lunch, Teenage Jesus & the Jerks were the center of New York's short-lived no wave movement. Cacophonous, confrontational, and fiercely inaccessible, Teenage Jesus generally played ten- to 15-minute shows, never released a full-length album, and disbanded after a relatively brief existence. Even so, they were instrumental in laying the groundwork for the noise rock movement of the '80s, and their work still sounds as forbidding and uncompromising as anything their spiritual followers recorded. Born Lydia Koch in Rochester, NY, Lunch founded Teenage Jesus & the Jerks in 1977 when she was just 16. Initially, the group included saxophonist James Chance (who soon left to form the Contortions), Japanese bassist Reck, and drummer Bradley Field. In 1978, Reck returned to Japan and was replaced by Gordon Stevenson; thus constituted, the trio recorded four tracks with producer Brian Eno for the 1978 compilation No New York, the seminal no wave document. By 1979, when the band issued a couple of EPs on the Lust/Unlust label, bassist/percussionist Jim Sclavunos had joined the group; however, they disbanded by the end of the year, as Lunch moved on to other projects. The group's complete recorded output was eventually reissued on CD by the Atavistic label under the title Everything. (

Thursday, December 16, 2010

From Her To Eternity - (1984)

Nick Cave launched his solo career in style with From Her to Eternity, an accomplished album mixing the frenzy and power of his Birthday Party days with a dank, moody atmosphere that showed he was not interested in simply continuing what the older group had done. To be sure, Mick Harvey joined him from the Party days, as ever playing a variety of instruments, while one-time Party guest Blixa Bargeld now became a permanent Cave partner, splitting his time between the Bad Seeds and Einsturzende Neubaten ever since. The group took wing with a harrowing version of Leonard Cohen's "Avalanche," Cave's wracked, buried tones suiting the Canadian legend's words perfectly, and never looked back. From Her to Eternity is crammed with any number of doom-laden songs, with Cave the understandable center of attention, his commanding vocals turning the blues and rural music into theatrical exhibitionism unmatched since Jim Morrison stalked stages. Songs like "Cabin Fever," with its steadily paced drumming and relentless piano line, and the more restrained and moody "The Moon Is in the Gutter" sound like cabarets in hell. "In the Ghetto," already perfectly suited to such a treatment, shows the underlying sense of beauty that defines the Seeds as much as drama. Even though it's a Presley cover, the sense of Scott Walker's influence isn't far away at all. The title track is and remains a Bad Seeds classic, played at shows up through the present, a tense piano/organ beginning then accompanied by the edgy build of the band, pounding drums, stabbing feedback and keyboard parts and more. (

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

TRAINSPOTTING - Music From The Motion Picture - (1996)

Trainspotting concerns the adventures of a group of young, nearly criminal, drug-addicted Scottish friends. The novel, written by Irvine Welsh, became one of the most popular books in the British indie scene in the early '90s and was adapted to film in 1996 by the makers of Shallow Grave. Appropriately, an all-star collection of British pop and techno stars -- everyone from Blur, Pulp, and Elastica to Leftfield, Primal Scream, and Underworld -- contributed to the soundtrack, which also features a couple of oldies by veteran punk godfathers like Lou Reed ("Perfect Day") and Iggy Pop ("Lust for Life," "Nightclubbing"). The entire soundtrack holds together surprisingly well, as the techno tracks balance with the pop singles. Every song, whether it's Pulp's deceptively bouncy "Mile End" or Brian Eno's lush "Deep Blue Day," is quite melancholy, creating an effectively bleak, but oddly romantic, atmosphere for the entire record. With the exception of the oldies, every song is rare or especially recorded for the soundtrack, and nearly every one is superb. Primal Scream's title track sees them returning to the dub/dance experiments of Screamadelica with grace, while Damon Albarn's first solo song, "Closet Romantic," is as good as any of Blur's waltzes. But the finest new song is Pulp's "Mile End," with its jaunty, neo-dancehall melody and rhythms and Jarvis Cocker's evocative, haunting lyrics. That song, more than anything else on the soundtrack, captures the feeling of the film. (

Arecibo Message - (2009)

The Arecibo message was beamed via frequency modulated radio waves into space at a ceremony to mark the remodeling of the Arecibo radio telescope on 16 November 1974. The album is thus a space voyage, a musical journey through the galaxy. 'Arecibo Message' is a collection of shorter, more condensed tracks for Boxcutter. 'A Familiar Sound' (also released on extended 12"mix through the new Kinnego records) features electronic soul duo Kinnego Flux with Brian Greene on vocals. This album sees Boxcutter ditching the computer sequencing and using lots of analogue synths, delays and guitar pedals to give an organic texture to the record. 'Arecibo..' features more guitars and bass than previous records and influences such as Hendrix as well as 2 step Garage influences such as Wideboys are clear. A real trip of an album.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Criss Cross - (1963)

Criss-Cross -- Thelonious Monk's second album for Columbia Records -- features some of the finest work that Monk ever did in the studio with his '60s trio and quartet. Whether revisiting pop standards or reinventing Monk's own classic compositions, Monk and Charlie Rouse (tenor sax), John Ore (bass), and Frankie Dunlop (drums) exchange powerful musical ideas, as well as provide potent solos throughout the disc. Fittingly, "Hackensack" -- a frenetic original composition -- opens the disc by demonstrating the bandleader's strength in a quartet environment. The solid rhythmic support of the trio unfetters Monk into unleashing endless cascades of percussive inflections and intoxicating chord progressions. The title cut also reflects the ability of the four musicians to maintain melodic intricacies that are at times so exigent it seems cruel that Monk would have expected a musician of any caliber to pull them off. "Tea for Two" showcases Monk's appreciation for the great stride or "walking" piano style of James P. Johnson and Willie "The Lion" Smith. The arrangement here is lighter, and features a trio (minus Rouse) to accent rather than banter with Monk's splashes of magnificence throughout. Likewise, Monk's solo on "Don't Blame Me" is excellent. The extended runs up and down the keyboard can't help but reiterate the tremendous debt of gratitude owed to the original stride pianists of the early 20th century. The 1993 compact disc pressing of Criss-Cross sounds great and adds a version of "Pannonica" that was previously unissued at the time. Unfortunately, however, the liner notes originally used on the album jacket -- penned by "Pannonica"'s namesake, Baroness Nica de Koenigswarter -- were replaced by those of a writer for Rolling Stone magazine. This is prime Monk for any degree of listener. (

The House I Live In - (1963)

This is a fascinating release. Tenor-saxophonist Archie Shepp would not burst upon the U.S. avant-garde scene until 1964-65 but here he is featured at a Danish concert with the great coolbop baritonist Lars Gullin and a top-notch straightahead rhythm section (pianist Tete Montoliu, bassist Niels Pedersen and drummer Alex Riel). The quintet stretches out on four lengthy standards (including "Sweet Georgia Brown" and a 19-minute rendition of "You Stepped out of a Dream") and it is particularly interesting to hear the reactions of the other musicians to Shepp's rather free flights; at a couple of points Gullin tries to copy him. An important historical release.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I Shot The President - (1997)

The band was formed in 1980 by guitarist Ian Burgoyne and bass guitarist Keith Band, who recruited drummer Kenny McDonald and by 1982, singer Paul Quinn. One of their early recordings, "Blue Moon Over Hawaii",was later included on the Messthetics series of compilations. The band were the last to be signed by Postcard Records, for whom they recorded a single in 1982, although the label's demise left it unreleased. They were then signed by Rough Trade, who released the "Show Me the Door" single and a self-titled début album in July 1983. Both were hits on the UK Independent Chart, with the album peaking at number 14. Quinn had left by 1983, to be replaced by Grahame Skinner, and Skinner also left to join Hipsway. The band split up shortly afterwards with Burgoyne, Band and McDonald joining up again with Quinn in Bourgie Bourgie. Burgoyne and Band re-formed the Jazzateers in 1985 along with guitarist Mick Slaven, drummer Colin Auld, and singer Matthew Wilcox, releasing a 12-inch single that year. A collection of Jazzateers tracks was issued in 1997 by Marina Records. Slaven went on to join Del Amitri, while Auld joined Fruits of Passion. Wilcox and Band, meanwhile, formed Wild Angels along with Stephen Lironi (formerly of Altered Images) and Douglas McIntyre (formerly of The Bathers).

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Grinderman 2 - (2010)

When Grinderman released their debut in 2007, it sounded like Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Jim Sclavunos, and Martyn Casey created a reckless, drunken animal of an alter ego to their membership in the Bad Seeds. The album bridged territory mined by everyone from the Stooges to Suicide to Bo Diddley, and was full of wry, devilish humor and decadence. Apparently between album and tour they had a good enough time to cut a second album. Again recorded in the company of producer Nick Launay, Grinderman 2 is a more polished and studied affair than its predecessor, but it's also more sonically adventurous, and it's still a white-hot rock & roll record. The opening, "Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man," comes closest to the songs on the previous album, but feels like it comes by way of Patti Smith's "Radio Ethiopia," Howlin' Wolf, and the Scientists. It's pure scummy, sleazy, in-the-red dissonant RAWK. The other material ranges from the swampy, ribald blues of "Kitchenette," where Casey's bass roils and coils around distorted, Echoplexed electric guitar, electric bouzouki, and jungle-like tom-toms and bass drums. Cave does his best lecher-in-heat blues howl -- if Charles Bukowski sang the blues, this is what it would sound like. "Worm Tamer" is a thundering coil of three-note vamps on electric guitar and violin, freaky organ sounds, and a lockstep rhythm section that threatens to take the entire thing off the rails from the jump, but purposely never does. While the controlled feedback suggests the earliest sounds of the Bad Seeds live, the layered harmony vocals and tautly held tension between rhythm and lead instruments -- all on stun -- betray more sophistication. The single "Heathen Child," with its darkly comedic lyrics built from the slithering, funky rhythm-section-down mix, is as infectious as it is blasphemous; Ellis' careening bouzouki is among the most threatening rock sounds to emerge from a stringed instrument in a dog's age. Grinderman can do a slow burn as well, as evidenced by the horny space rock drone on "When My Baby Comes." Nothing really prepares the listener for the closer, though. "Bellringer Blues" is where backmasked psych meets Loop, Spiritualized, and Ash Ra with dramatic flair and spooky chanted refrains. While it's easy to see why some listeners may prefer the completely unhinged sounds of Grinderman's debut, this set, with its expansive sonics and studied bombast, is still full of so much adrenaline, nastiness, and rock & roll sleaze that it stands in its own league and kicks serious ass. (

Helium - (1995)

Disconcerting and maze-like, Pram's second full-length effort shapes and refines the ideas of their previous records; Helium's primary components -- Moog burblings, exotic rhythms, and cool-toned horns -- are more typically the building blocks of lounge music, but Pram is instead all about uneasy listening, cutting and pasting schizophrenic sound collages topped off by Rosie Cuckston's unnerving vocals. For all of its inventiveness, however, Helium is often too willfully obscure for its own good. It's no surprise that the best track here, the cinematic "Blue," is also the most focused and subtle, complete with a deep bass groove and jazzy trumpet flourishes.

Monday, December 6, 2010

In The Reptile House - (2006)

Born out of a high-school friendship in March 2001 in the Orlando suburb of Winter Park, FL, quirky electronica duo Yip-Yip (Brian Esser and Jason Temple) didn't set out to perform live shows. Instead, they concentrated on making music at home, using a variety of keyboards, samplers, and other instruments to create their unique NES-meets-noise sound that eschewed melody for pattern and idiosyncrasy. In 2001 they self-released their debut full-length, 1, with Skills appearing the following year. In 2003 the EP High Heel to Mammal was released, and it was also around this time that Yip-Yip decided to start playing live shows. They started to appear locally, booking their first real tour in 2004 and continuing onward from there, helping to make a name for themselves by playing videos and wearing matching hooded jumpsuits (either white or black-and-white checkers) on-stage. In 2004 they pressed a limited number of their third full-length, Pro-Twelve Thinker, which was then picked up by California-based Strictly Amateur Films and reissued the following year. Though on a label, the band continued to do its own artwork and recording, releasing a couple of singles and an album, In the Reptile House, before showing up at New York's CMJ Festival in the fall of 2006 and 2007 and issuing yet another full-length, Two Kings of the Same Kingdom, in the winter of 2008.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mr. Bungle - (1991)

To say that Mr. Bungle is unfocused is like criticizing a rapper for not being able to sing -- it may be true, but it misses the point of the music. Mr. Bungle is a dizzying, disconcerting, schizophrenic tour through just about any rock style the group can think of, hopping from genre to genre without any apparent rhyme or reason, and sometimes doing so several times in the same song. Mike Patton's lyrics are even more bizarrely humorous than those he used in Faith No More, and they're also less self-censored, as titles like "Squeeze Me Macaroni," "My Ass Is on Fire," and "The Girls of Porn" indicate. It's a difficult, not very accessible record, and the band wouldn't have it any other way. (

Saxophone Colossus - (1956)

Sonny Rollins recorded many memorable sessions during 1954-1958, but Saxophone Colossus is arguably his finest all-around set. Joined by pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist Doug Watkins, and drummer Max Roach, Rollins debuts and performs the definitive version of "St. Thomas," tears into the chord changes of "Mack the Knife" (here called "Moritat"), introduces "Strode Rode," is lyrical on "You Don't Know What Love Is," and constructs a solo on "Blue Seven" that practically defines his style. Essential music that, as with all of Rollins' Prestige recordings, has also been reissued as part of a huge "complete" box set; listeners with a tight budget are advised to pick up this single disc and be amazed.

Paganicons - (1981)

Although Greg Ginn's record label SST was, early on, associated with the angry, overamped guitar rant of SoCal hardcore (some of which came courtesy of Ginn's own band Black Flag), SST was also recording bands that pushed the limits of hardcore. Bands like the Minutemen, Universal Congress Of, and especially Saccharine Trust gleefully tossed in chunks of '70s progressive rock, avant-garde jazz, and funky kicks and pops into a stew already percolating with heavy(ish) metal riffing, shouted vocals, and extreme volume. Not all of the boundary-pushing that Saccharine Trust did was good (in fact, some of it is downright awful), but when they kept their tendency toward grandiose self-indulgence in check, they were a pretty formidable proposition, especially live, and recorded at least one indispensable record, 1986's We Became Snakes. Formed in the early '80s by Joaquin (aka Jack) Brewer and guitarist Joe Baiza, Saccharine Trust metamorphosed from a dissonant, noisy, anti-rock quartet into a more sophisticated, but still jagged and noisy rock-jazz band. Frequently, the band's "songs" were semi- or wholly improvised using a basic riff or simple drum pattern for guidance, rapidy expanding into uncharted territory. Not the most important band to emerge from Los Angeles in the early '80s, Saccharine Trust is interesting for incorporating varied textural elements into a genre that was defined by volume and simplicity. This band took risks that many of their SoCal brethren would never have dreamed of taking. This, however, does not make Saccharine Trust better than their peers, simply different, and a little more intriguing. By the early '90s, Brewer started his own band called, big surprise, the Jack Brewer Band. Joe Baiza formed the fine, funky, and exciting Universal Congress Of. (

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mad For Sadness - (1999)

Arab Strap followed hot on the heels of Elephant Shoe (released domestically just a month before) with the stellar live recording Mad for Sadness. In many ways, the album differs little from their previous studio work. Aidan Moffat still mumbles bitingly frank -- sometimes pathetic, sometimes agonizingly romantic -- sentiments steeped in the dirty sweat of sex and regret and self-loathing. His tart tongue has always gained the most notice on Arab Strap records, and understandably, since the likes of his brutal, lustful honesty have rarely been heard in pop music quarters. The music also betrays the same dozy lope, barely raising above its sloshed, inebriated din. On the other hand, Malcolm Middleton's moody musical constructions -- sometimes punchy, sometimes hallucinatory and somnolent -- positively glisten in the live setting, and serve due notice that the most important trait of the band is its sound. Even at its darkest and most melancholy, and even stripped of words, the music would shimmer with an insistent urgency that is part drone, part ambience. The music produces its own inherent meanings and, taken on its own terms, works sinister and noir-like territory in ways that are occasionally buried under the cognitive weight of the lyrics. Eight of the ten songs on the album derive from their first two recordings. Arab Strap proves themselves capable of flawlessly replicating their spare grooves and slow burn on stage, and that further heightens the immediacy of Mad for Sadness beyond the level attained by their previous efforts. The excellent "Girls of Summer" (from the Girls of Summer U.K.-only EP), with its smoldering electric guitar leads and chaotic shimmer, is the album's high point, and the closing mutant boy-girl duet, "Afterwords" (sounding not unlike an apocalyptic Tricky song) is not far behind. But the music, in general, maintains a wonderful tension so completely that it is the most engulfing album the band has yet made. Each of Arab Strap's albums are worth owning because they are so uniformly compelling, but Mad for Sadness is perhaps the most representative album yet from the band. (

Lost In Space (Reel To Reel Obscurities) - (2001)

In the Seventies/Eighties, Nash the Slash played with Cameron Hawkins and Martin Deller in a band called "FM". This 78 minute CD features a selection of reel-to-reel obscurities: lost tapes and unreleased gems by this trio, who specialized in a fusion brand of progrock. This collection begins with an extended version of Black Noise that possesses a savage passage of multi-layered violins amid the profusion of keyboards and analog apparatus and the searing mandolin solos. Vocals are supplied by both Nash and Hawkins. Phasers on Stun displays a more delicate sensibility with fluid mandolin cascading through a nest of nimble fingered keyboards that grows into an incredible wall of sound. Glockenspiel enhances One O'clock Tomorrow, another soft (almost elfin) piece. Mandolin enters to attribute a distinct Canterbury sound to the music. Vocals thread their way between the instrumental passages, with a growling bass undercurrent. The Who's classic Baba O'Riley has long been a fiery mainstay in Nash's solo live concerts; here you hear its original, sparser inception with FM. Sans percussion, this version features livelier keyboard tracks than the familiar loop that allows most listener's to instantly recognize the song. The next four tracks are from the mid-Eighties demos from FM's reformation in preparation for their Contest album. They are stripped-down takes, displaying the melodies in simpler performances. Friends and Neighbors shows its techno-pop roots, while the band's cover version of the Animal's It's My Life is decidedly darker than expected. Finishing up the CD is a stunning live version (from 1977) of King Crimson's Starless that demonstrates just as much power as the original. Nash's mandolin achieves unbelievably ecstatic heights duplicating Fripp's masterful guitar peaks. The collection also includes five hidden bonus tracks.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Backsaturday - (1995)

The first aspects of Prolapse's Jetset debut that the listener is likely to notice are the weird rants from vocalists Linda Steelyard and Mick Derrick, but Backsaturday is as noteworthy for its imaginative noisemaking and well-executed, taut, post-punk rhythms as for the bizarre personalities guiding it. Prolapse's vocals, with Steelyard cooing sly catch phrases while Derrick barks obliviously and drunkenly in an indecipherable Scottish accent, are probably as distinctive as any rock band's. But there's much more going on here, like the droning synthesizers and dub-ish drums on "Zen Nun Deb"; the disorienting feedback of "Strain Contortion of Bag"; and the stomping single-note guitar lines on the epic "Flex." Prolapse even pull off an excellent pop song, the keyboard-heavy "TCR." This record isn't nearly as lush as Prolapse's later work, and the focal point of Backsaturday is noisy rock derived from P.I.L. and the Fall, but it's also got plenty of variety. So while the vocalists areBacksaturday's most immediately striking feature, it's the skill and versatility of the other bandmembers that will keep listeners coming back. (

Queen Of All Ears - (1998)

John Lurie's so-called "non-jazz" approach is in full flower on this fascinating record. The ever-growing (nine-piece at this point) band builds layers of rhythm and melody with unique effect throughout. On "The Birds Near Her House," a serpentine melodic line weaves through a steady rhythmic bed, building to a frenetic climax. "Scary Children" is a foreboding dirge that still manages to exude true humor. Perhaps that is the most significant aspect of this music: it has real character and life. It doesn't just groove -- it starts a conversation.

Live On The Interface - (2007)

Just one day after playing the first of her only two U.S. shows this year, at New York's Beacon Theatre, PJ Harvey, who just released her latest album, the piano-based 'White Chalk,' stopped by our Manhattan studio for a four-song performance and interview. Donning a raven Victorian dress, Harvey needed little decoration for her tunes, as her solo set, much like the new album, relied heavily on only two things: a percussive, haunting piano -- a new instrument in Harvey's musical palette -- and a voice that has found no boundaries over the course of her 15-year career. (

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Devil's Music - (2010)

Notable for their eclectic musical style as much as for wearing large bear heads, Teddybears were formed in Sweden in the early '90s. Although the group — whose members also direct videos, short films, and commercials — takes on a variety of genres including electronic, dance, rock, and reggae, Teddybears' original incarnation was as a grindcore band. Members Patrik Arve and Joakim Åhlund (who is also guitarist for the Caesars) had met in art school in Stockholm, soon adding Åhlund's brother Klas on guitar. In defiance of typical grindcore band names, the group switched its first name, Skull, to Teddybears, named after a band from the '50s featuring Phil Spector. After Teddybears' drummer left, the other members relied upon drum machines, guitars, and vocoders. The result was the electronic-leaning Rock 'n' Roll Highschool in 2000, followed by Fresh in 2005. Signing on with Atlantic, the band's first U.S. release, Soft Machine, came out in September 2006 and featured guests Iggy Pop, Annie, Neneh Cherry, Mad Cobra, and Ebbot Lundberg of the Soundtrack of Our Lives. Devil's Music followed in 2010.

Dots And Loops - (1997)

On Emperor Tomato Ketchup, Stereolab moved in two directions simultaneously -- it explored funkier dance rhythms while increasing the complexity of its arrangements and compositions. For its follow-up, Dots and Loops, the group scaled back its rhythmic experiments and concentrated on layered compositions. Heavily influenced by bossa nova and swinging '60s pop, Dots and Loops is a deceptively light, breezy album that floats by with effortless grace. Even the segmented, 20-minute "Refractions in the Plastic Pulse" has a sunny, appealing surface -- it's only upon later listens that the interlocking melodies and rhythms reveal their intricate interplay. In many ways, Dots and Loops is Stereolab's greatest musical accomplishment to date, demonstrating remarkable skill -- their interaction is closer to jazz than rock, exploring all of the possibilities of any melodic phrase. Their affection for '60s pop keeps Dots and Loops accessible, even though that doesn't mean it is as immediate as Emperor Tomato Ketchup. In fact, the laid-back stylings of Dots and Loops makes it a little difficult to assimilate upon first listen, but after a few repeated plays, its charms unfold as gracefully as any other Stereolab record. (

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mystery Spot - (1987)

Angst was one of nearly four dozen Northern California and Nevada bands featured on the Faulty Products distributed Alternative Tentacles LP, NOT SO QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT. Angst was formed in 1979 in Denver, Colorado, with the original name The Instants. With the punk scene virtually non-existent in Denver at that time, they briefly moved to the UK before finally relocating in San Francisco and taking the name Angst. Unlike the majority of bands on NOT SO QUIET..., Angst actually managed to land a contract with trend-setting American punk label, SST, the label through which they released five albums in the '80s.

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