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.

Negro Necro Nekros - (1998)

The debut record from Newark, NJ's Dälek is an exercise in experimental hip-hop that focuses as much on beats as it does on the heavy-handed lyrics that carry the group's message. With equally spacious and dark backgrounds created by Oktopus, aka noted indie rock producer Alap Momin, the setting is fittingly sinister for the incensed rhymes of dälek the MC, who leads their attack. Momin also provides plenty of fitting samples over his beats, which contain everything from Indian drums and strings to crazed DJ Shadow-esque breakbeats. Hammering the twisted soundtrack home are the occasionally political and often enraged lyrics. The artist raps with enough control to often hold back until it really matters. His at times whispered musings add to the musical buildups, and when he does finally break on tracks like "Swollen Tongue Bums," his combination of heart and fury carries his poetry across with force. Dälek is the rare hip-hop crew that focuses on the entire package, and the fact that they have enough faith in their beats, all of which is merited, to allow for lengthy musical interludes on tracks like "Images of 44. Casings" makes this all-too-short record a legitimate force to be reckoned with. Too many crews seem to focus on the trends of the past, but Dälek is looking boldly ahead and their ability to create an abstract new approach is their greatest strength. (

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Vim and Vigour of Alvarius B and Cerberus Shoal - (2002)

The second in a series of split EPs released by North East Indie Records pairing Cerberus Shoal with kindred spirits (the first was the Whys and Hows of Herman Dune and Cerberus Shoal), The Vim & Vigour of Alverius B and Cerberus Shoal pairs the Maine-based 6-piece with Alan Bishop (a.k.a. Alvarius B) from the Sun City Girls. Alvarius B begins the set with a reinterpretation of Cerberus Shoal's "Ding," croaking out the lines like Jack Nance on codeine as a guitar plinks and plucks along and a see-sawing violin hovers above. "Blood Baby" and "Viking Christmas" are Alvarius B originals. In the spooky psych-folk vein of Comus or Maitreya Kali, the songs veer between humor and horror as Bishop sings of "chopped up babies" and how "no two bodies are the same when you're learning how to maim." Cerberus Shoal takes over on the second half of the disc. Reinterpreting the previous two songs, Cerberus Shoal adds intricate and textured arrangements and choral-style vocals. Their version of "Bloody Baby" even sounds a little like a Kurt Weill cabaret tune, and "Viking Christmas" is nearly a cappella save for some punctuating percussion. The CD ends with Cerberus Shoal's own version of "Ding," "The Real Ding." A typewriter clicks away on the background for the first half of the song before being replaced by rhythm that is one part post-rock one part Magic Band in a tarpit. A chorus tackles most of the vocals, layering on the harmonies, and the instrumentation constantly shifts from guitars to banjos to accordion: this 18 minute track never lags despite its slow tempo.

Glass Fountain - (2009)

The Reed/Garbes duo mainly sticks to their guns, mining the same post-Suicide art-trance vein they perfected on Dream, but with Glass Fountain there’s an added emphasis on the disembodied, oscillator pop mode that Wet Hair often toy with. Fountain’s five tracks include some of the band’s simplest but catchiest songs (“Crucifix In The Waves,” “When The Right Time Comes,” etc), mesmerizing organ melodies over plink-plonky vintage drum machines with weirdo soulful singing and outer space electronics, like an outsider-punk Silver Apples or something. Hard to say exactly what universe Wet Hair are operating in and that’s probably part of what makes them so original. A killer record that gets better each spin.

Syr 1 - (1997)

Sonic Youth invested the money they earned as Lollapalooza headliners in 1995 in a new studio. Owning their own studio gave them the freedom to experiment as they were recording, since they no longer had to pay rental fees. To inaugurate their new studio, they set out to record a series of experimental instrumental EPs with engineer Wharton Tiers, all of which would be released on the quartet's own label. With its winding, elliptical improvised instrumentals, SYR 1 set the tone for the entire series. Musically, the EP isn't far removed from the instrumental sections on Sister or Daydream Nation, but this music isn't merely waves of feedback -- it's considered, detailed, and bizarrely accessible. Like the epic "The Diamond Sea," the four songs have shifting sonic colors, as simple riffs build and intertwine, crossing over each other before finding a new path. It's closer to avant-garde than rock, but the music isn't purely cerebral, either. Recognizable statements float in and out of the mix, providing something of a touchstone for the free-form explorations. SYR 1 also has brevity on its side. The EP lasts 25 minutes -- which is just enough time to provide an exciting blueprint for a new era of Sonic Youth. (

Monday, November 15, 2010

9 - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - (2009)

Composer Deborah Lurie's score for animator/director Shane Acker's apocalyptic (and animated) fantasy adventure 9, dutifully complements the film's grim (yet oddly hopeful) premise of an alternate world where a small band of rag dolls attempts to rescue civilization from the machines bent on destroying it. Lurie, with a little help from Danny Elfman, with whom she has collaborated in the past as an arranger/orchestrator for Charlotte's Web and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, fills the world of 9 with dark orchestral wonder peppered with the occasional ray of sunshine that suggests a heavy childhood diet of John Williams scores. The soundtrack concludes with "Welcome Home," a track from progressive metal outfit Coheed and Cambria's 2005 album Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV, Vol. 1: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness, which was initially tagged onto the film's trailer. (

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Reset EP - (2007)

Startling Warp debut from California's FlyLo. Six cuts so original, so addictive so damn good it blew the beats scene wide open... Opening number 'Tea Leaf Dancers' is blue-haze soul filtered through the dusty crackle of old-vinyl and breathing, pumping compressed drums, a gorgeous vocal underpins the grace. The rest is audio-majesty a complex, gloriously layered E.P. Check the rest out and prepare to be amazed!

Elephantitus Of The Night - (1995)

Bass and drums, what more can you say? Well, Elephantitus of the Night is made up of four unreleased tracks recorded in 1994, four songs released on the Thee Friendship Village EP recorded in 1993, and a live track from the Stars Kill Rock compilation released in 1992. The music is very thick. One could never imagine music this tough coming from two instruments -- there is so much power from these simple and effective songs. Occasionally, a flanger is thrown into the mix to twist the distorted bass sound. Vocals are screamed and distant, working well with the thick music. There exists an underlying groove to all of the tunes, a danceable chaos. Basslines cut from thick walking grooves to heavy mutings. Drums have a tough syncopation. This has a metal/punk/hardcore flavor with much more fun added. As is natural, the fun comes out of the deconstruction of the typical rock formula. "Nutritious Treat" is definitely the highlight of the album. Bass and drums fill up the speakers with a fast tempo and washed recording. It is a live track recorded in 1992, capturing the manic, fast-forward nature of godheadSilo.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How To Be A Megastar Live! - (2008)

Experimental musical theater troupe the Blue Man Group were founded in 1987 by longtime friends Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton, and Chris Wink; identical in their blue-painted skin, skullcaps, and black clothing, they soon became a fixture of the New York underground performance art scene thanks to their regular appearances in Central Park, followed by shows at noted East Village spaces including Dixon Place, Performance Space 122, and the Wooster Group's Performing Garage. Equal parts play, concert, and sketch routine, the Blue Man Group combined sight gags, physical stunts, and audience participation, with members of the front rows given plastic rain ponchos as protection from the hail of paint, food, and other assorted projectiles launched from the stage; in early 1991, they premiered their production Tubes at La MaMa, moving to the Astor Place Theater by the end of the year and ultimately winning an Obie Award for their efforts. Tubes eventually expanded to long runs in Boston, Chicago, and Las Vegas; in 1999, the Blue Man Group also issued an album, Audio, spotlighting their custom musical instruments. Three year later, the trio inked a multi-album deal with Atlantic's sister label, Lava Records. The Complex, which appeared in April 2003, marked the Blue Man Group's monumental sophomore album -- a slick effort showcasing impressive collaborations with Tracy Bonham, Dave Matthews, Dan the Automator, and Esthero. In 2008 the group celebrated its successful How to Be a Megastar tour by releasing a CD/DVD of the show as well as an EP of remixes of "Canta Conmigo," the successful Spanish-language interpretation of their song "Sing Along." (

Seventh Tree - (2008)

After spending years on the dancefloor with Black Cherry and Supernature, Goldfrapp takes a breather with The Seventh Tree. Allison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory slow down the beats and break out the acoustic guitars on a set of songs that suggest chilling out in a field during a hazy, watercolor summer; this is music for after the party, not after-parties. "Clowns" opens the album with finger-picked acoustic guitar, bird songs, and Allison's nearly wordless vocalizing, making a statement that's bold because it's so gentle -- the effect is like stepping out into a sunny morning after spending all night in a club. At first, it's a shock, and then it feels great. Avoiding the glammy dance-pop of the duo's previous two albums is a bit of a risk, since Goldfrapp could probably make endless variations on "Ooh La La" and still have plenty of fans. However, The Seventh Tree isn't so much a radical change for Goldfrapp as it is a shift in focus; even if it doesn't sound glam, it sounds glamorous. Sonic luxury has been the only constant in the duo's sound, from Felt Mountain's darkly lavish soundscapes to Black Cherry and Supernature's decadent dance hits, and there's plenty of it here, too. This is not Goldfrapp Unplugged, although acoustic guitars and strings waft in and out of the album effortlessly -- if anything, The Seventh Tree's electro hippie-chic is the duo's most polished and luxe work yet. "Little Bird"'s psychedelic trip-hop builds to a majesty that recalls "Strawberry Fields Forever," buoyed by layer upon layer of guitar, vocals, sparkling synths, and a massive, rolling bassline. "Caravan Girl" is some of Goldfrapp's finest escapist pop, capturing the irresistible appeal of running away with big hooks and an even bigger wall of sounds backing them up. Allison uses her voice more beautifully and expressively than she has since Felt Mountain, especially on "Eat Yourself" and the Air-esque "Cologne Cerrone Houdini," where her upper register shines. Goldfrapp expands their emotional palette as well as their musical one on The Seventh Tree, digging deeper into the vulnerable territory they explored with Supernature's "Number One." On "Monster Love" and "A&E," where Allison confesses "think I want you still, but it may be pills at work," the duo pulls off the confessional, folktronic singer/songwriter style with more flair than their peers. "Happiness," on the other hand, offers some surprisingly cheeky irony, pondering how to find "real love" (answer: "donate all your money") while coming across like a cheery cult anthem about trading your worldly possessions for colorful robes. With all the sounds and feelings The Seventh Tree explores, it's clear that Goldfrapp doesn't miss the style the pair perfected on their last two albums, nor should they -- this is some of their most varied, balanced, and satisfying work. (

Monday, November 8, 2010

Drinkin' Lechin' And Lyin' - (1989)

Taking their name from a biker magazine rather than from the white-suited character in The Dukes of Hazzard, Boss Hog's debut sounds more like the missing link between Pussy Galore and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion than something new. (That said, the band wasn't originally envisioned as the full-time project it would become.) Spencer sings lead on most of the tracks and wife Cristina Martinez -- both from Pussy Galore -- mostly just growls along. Martinez would take on more of the vocals for subsequent releases as the band became more melodic in the manner of the Shangri-Las or Bikini Kill. The songs here certainly rock hard enough (Big Black's Steve Albini handled the production duties), but aren't particularly memorable otherwise. At the time of its release, the six-song EP attracted more attention for the cover art, featuring Martinez clad in black boots and gloves -- and nothing else -- than for the music (Martinez would also forget her clothes for the cover of 1989's Cold Hands). The personnel for this incarnation of Boss Hog included Charlie Ondras (from Unsane), Jerry Teel (from the Honeymoon Killers), and Kurt Wolf (also from Pussy Galore).

Amazing Grace - (2003)

After the arduous process of making 2001's hyper-orchestrated Let It Come Down and hearing the fierce, back-to-basics rock of bands like the White Stripes and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Jason Pierce vowed that the next Spiritualized album would be a departure from the excesses of his previous efforts. In some aspects, Amazing Grace makes good on his word: right down to its cover art -- a photo of a naked arm, free of any ornament (or track marks) -- the album makes a show of its simplicity. The pair of rockers that begin Amazing Grace are just as driven as anything that has come out of the recent wave of garage rock revivalism, but save for some lo-fi affectations, could easily appear on any of Spiritualized's other albums. Indeed, lyrics like "This little life of mine/I'm gonna let it slide" and song titles like "She Kissed Me (It Felt Like a Hit)" are so quintessentially Spiritualized that they border on parody. The album's softer moments also have a slightly rehashed quality and are still fairly ornate. While "Hold On" and "Oh Baby" are more restrained than Pierce's Let It Come Down material, that just means that their excesses are less excessive -- there's only one orchestra and gospel choir per song. However, the processes that Pierce used to craft the album aren't as important as the fact that its songs aren't especially distinctive. Amazing Grace touches on all of Spiritualized's song archetypes: fiery rockers ("Never Going Back," "Cheapster"), gospel-tinged pleas for salvation ("Lord Let It Rain on Me"), ethereal laments ("Rated X"), and forays into jazz ("The Power and the Glory"), but, despite energetic performances and a relatively simple approach, very few of the songs connect. If anything, the stripped-down production magnifies the album's nondescript songwriting. The standout track is "The Ballad of Richie Lee," a bleakly beautiful song that truly does use the orchestra in a restrained and powerful way, making a logical progression from where Pierce's music has been to where it could be going.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Burial - (2006)

Burial is the first great dubstep album, legitimizing a style -- a generally dark, emotive, and faceless dub offshoot of 2-step -- that had thus far been confined to 12" vinyl and the underground club scene. Even though a couple of the tracks ("Southern Comfort," "Broken Home") had been previously released on the South London Boroughs EP (2005), Burial doesn't sound like a compilation of one-off productions to date, as is often the case with music of this kind. It's a true album, a unified collection of songs similar in style as well as mood yet also distinct enough from one another to remain engaging over the course of 13 tracks in 51 minutes. As if it were a well-selected mix album, Burial flows well from one track to the next; the exception is "Spaceape," the only song featuring a vocalist (and unfortunately sequenced third, disrupting the flow just as it begins). While some tracks stand out ("Distant Lights," "Southern Comfort," "Gutted," "Broken Home"), they're interspersed by low-key tracks such as "Night Bus" and "Forgive" that enhance the overall mood and space out the highlights. As the hazy, mostly black cover art of the album (a nighttime aerial photograph of South London) suggests, the mood of Burial is dim, distant, and rather dreary; from a subjective standpoint, one might characterize it as the sound of 3:00 a.m., a time of reflection and perhaps remorse, of being alone after the party's come to an end. There is an emotional aspect at work that is key to this mood, a sullen sense of despair especially evident in the ambient interludes, communicated also in the ghostly vocal samples. The technical aspect of Burial is remarkable, too. The album's subterranean basslines and skittering rhythms, along with its array of found sounds and production effects, are simple yet inventive, austere yet evocative. Other dubstep producers have crafted a similar style, make no mistake, but Burial is the first to craft it on the scale of a full-length album so effectively. (

The Voice Of Midnight - (2007)

The Residents have firmly embraced the concept album for many years now. But recently, projects like Tweedles and especially The River of Crime have seen them move towards more straightforward storytelling. Well, straightforward for the Residents at least. For The Voice of Midnight, they turn their attention towards Prussian author E.T.A. Hoffmann, whose dark and creepy stories would seem to be right up the Residents' dark and creepy alley. Specifically, they take up Hoffmann's short story "The Sandman," where the young protagonist is haunted by terrible childhood memories that cloud his adult life and ultimately cause his downfall. Although the Residents transplant the story to a more contemporary setting, they stick very closely to the original story line. It's presented differently, but all the basic plot elements are the same (except for a wonderful Resident-ial twist at the end). Musically, it sounds like no one but the Residents, with the addition of strings and the screaming guitar of Residents collaborator Nolan Cook. There aren't songs per se, the main characters of Nate and Claire speak their roles; Nate only occasionally breaks into verse, and then very briefly. Both voices sound young and new to Residents recordings. The Sandman himself has a comparatively small vocal contribution and always "sings" his part. It's clearly the voice of the "Singing Resident," but longtime fans might lament his diminished role. Some nice musical touches are the allusions to Bernard Herrman's Psycho in the first track and to a Stephen Foster tune in "True Love." Part of "The Telescope" sounds almost like a dance track. The rest is suitably dark and menacing. There's even a nice eyeball tie-in with the story. This probably isn't the best place to start if you're just discovering the Residents but it's certainly interesting for fans as they head down this new path.

Warning - (1982)

After Edgar Schlepper unpacked the new guitar-synthesizer he had ordered for his music-shop, he immediately called his friend Hans Müller and they spent a drunken night toying around with this new device. Müller, who worked at a record company must have seen the potential of their experiments and the two formed Warning. They called themselves Ed Vanguard and Mike Yonder, put on black robes and Darth-Vader-esque masks and invented (and buried) death-metal-doom-disco.The German producer duo hit it big when their bizarre and disturbing single "Why Can The Bodies Fly" was used as the memorable soundtrack for a 1982 episode of popular TV-crime program "Tatort" (Crime-scene). In the now classic episode, "Peggy hat Angst" (Peggy is afraid), the killer listens to the song over and over while playing bongos. He terrorizes women by playing the song over the phone late at night. He finally kills one of his victims (a fashion-model) while she is on the phone talking to a model-friend. We only hear the music blaring through the speaker overlaid with the screams of the dying woman. On the next day, people stormed the record-stores demanding the single which soon climbed to #11 in the charts.This spooky novelty song with its totally disembodied voices and hilariously “dark” lyrics is a lost classic. Outside of doom-metal you won't hear a voice like that (well, Laibach comes to mind... but i get the point) and even today "Why Can The Bodies Fly" sounds as strange as it did in 1982.Take KISS in their disco-phase, bury with Italo disco and Munich Machine and witness the missing link between Amanda Lear and The Sisters of Mercy rising from it's disco grave.Warning released two albums (and two 12''singles) which some goth-heads regard as very influential. (

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Barking (w/ Alternative Versions) - (2010)

Underworld's eighth album found the duo seeking outside production, which came in the form of a half-dozen dance heavyweights who pull the aging duo in several different directions, mostly pop, trance, and, occasionally, their native techno. The opening "Bird 1" is a glorious return to form, featuring a production from Dubfire that recasts the duo in the gritty, rain-soaked techno of 1993, a dead ringer for Dubnobasswithmyheadman's "Dark & Long." Underworld have rarely revisited old ground, making this a startling and excellent track. Still, Barking doesn't spend much time there, instead visiting much brighter territory on the single "Scribble," with a production by High Contrast that should have creative directors rearranging their budgets to license. The biggest name here is Paul Van Dyk, whose "Diamond Jigsaw" is as straight-ahead as techno can get -- and also sounds like it could earn its share of advertising dollars. Although this is hardly Underworld at their finest, the duo's songwriting fits the mainstream productions and results in a solid dance album for the 2010s -- music for aging-raver activities like driving cars, pushing swings, or jogging on treadmills.

CD 1 - The Album

CD 2 - The Alternative Versions

Today Is The Day - (1996)

Having subtracted bass from Today Is the Day and added keyboards, noise rock auteur Steve Austin thereby altered his outfit stylistically, moving from the warmth and emotional appeal of Willpower to an icily digital landscape of painful, high-frequency tones, screeched vocals, and even more painful guitar. Today Is the Day is a brutal record, owing a bit of its industrial nature to acts like Skinny Puppy and Merzbow. However, this is hardly textbook industrial music. Still utilizing guitar and organic drums, Today Is the Day is not driven by the keyboards so much as augmented sonically by them. The keys produce more of an atmospheric than a melodic effect, thereby leaving the essential constitution of Today Is the Day intact and guitar-driven.

To A Frown - (1993)

Raw as a heroin abscess, Buzzov-en's debut, To a Frown, ushered in a devastatingly ugly admixture of bastardized Southern rock riffs, heavy metal, noise rock, and the broken bottle aggression of early Black Flag. Though not the band's finest album, it packs a violent wallop, with Kirk's contorted, half-growled, half-screamed vocals threatening menacingly over the sturm and drang of the rhythm section. Though Buzzov-en owes part of its aesthetic -- both in appearance and sound -- to Southern scum rock outfit Antiseen, they upped the ante in energy, presence, recklessness, and songwriting. Half of the album resides in sludgy blues riffs dragged through the sewer of Kirk's drug- and violence-oriented lyrics, and the other half is pure Damaged-influenced, early-American hardcore aggression. The band toured relentlessly for this album, destroying clubs and leaving a wake of drug-induced terror in its wake. A year later, Buzzov-en was signed to Roadrunner, where it would release its finest album, Sore. (

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Up In It - (1990)

Though the Afghan Whigs were still about a year away from hitting the peak of their powers in the studio, their second album, 1990's Up in It, was a major improvement over their self-released debut, and it was their first recording to suggest that they would mature into one of the best American rock bands of the 1990s. As a songwriter, Greg Dulli was starting to really get in touch with his self-loathing, and "Retarded," "White Trash Party," and "I Know Your Little Secret" offer a powerful and sometimes disturbing look into one man's obsessions. Just as importantly, the band had finally learned to make the most of their musical muscle; Greg Dulli's nicotine-laced growl merged "heavy-alternative" bellow with a soul man's sense of phrasing, while the guitars of Dulli and Rick McCollum and the rhythm section of John Curley and Steve Earle managed to combine bruising power with a remarkable sense of drama and dynamics. While lots of bands riding the "grunge"/"alternative" bandwagon at the time owed an obvious debt to Led Zeppelin, the Afghan Whigs were one of the few that fully grasped not just their pomp and heaviness, but their precision, their timing, and their understanding of R&B. While it pales in comparison to what the Whigs would achieve on Congregation and Gentlemen, Up in It made it clear the Afghan Whigs had truly arrived, and would not be ignored.

Arcade Fire EP - (2003)

As far as debuts go, the Arcade Fire's seven-song introduction to the world will forever be lorded over by its behemoth older sibling, 2004's commercially and critically lauded Funeral. While the hundreds of people who coveted the self-titled EP prior to its 2005 re-release on the ultra-hip Merge label can rest assured that their copies are indeed original, those who are looking for a prequel to the anthemic, end-of-the-world bombast that emanated like a black-box recorder from Funeral are in for a treat. While there's nothing here that matches the goosebump-inducing electricity that runs through "Tunnels" or "Power Out," there are moments -- both musical and lyrical -- that portend the fireworks to come. "Old Flame" starts things off innocently enough with a simple melody tied to the even simpler pangs of new love -- "My mouth is full/Your heart is an apple" -- and "I'm Sleeping in a Submarine" extends that joy with a defiant chorus of "A cage is a cage, is a cage, is a cage!" However, it isn't until the third track that the record begins to take shape -- "No Cars Go," with its driving accordion melody line and unified shouts, sounds like the blueprint for Funeral's "Rebellion (Lies)." Régine Chassagne does little to escape the Björk comparisons on the sparse "Woodlands National Anthem," but her distorted, blood-curdling howls on the pulsing "Headlights Look Like Diamonds" are one of the EP's highlights. By the time the listener arrives at "Vampire/Forest Fire," with its familiar themes of pain both spiritual and familial, it's obvious where the band is headed. Like Broken Social Scene or the Flaming Lips, the Arcade Fire are sometimes earnest to a fault. While each of the seven tracks contained herein are fully realized, they are as unfocused as they are beautiful, resulting in an intangible, dreamlike atmosphere that reduces each cut -- no matter how deep -- down to a mere scratch. (

Monday, November 1, 2010

Nosferatu - (2001)

Nash the Slash has a strong love of silent movies (his name comes from Laurel and Hardy's classic Do Detectives Think) and he has composed three other soundtracks for silent film classics (including his wonderful music for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari). However, this is the first soundtrack that he has committed to tape and released to his rabid fans. And it is fantastic. The music actually stands alone without viewing the film. It is a combination of several styles including classical, rock, electronica, and ambient. Slash is able to combine these genres and create his own atmospheric sounds with very strong melodies. This style differs from his instrumental work (such as Blind Windows) but is equally interesting and engaging. Fans of Slash will love this CD, and fans of soundtracks will undoubtedly find something of interest here. A brilliant work. (

Evil Dead (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - (1982)

Joeseph LoDuca's score for The Evil Dead is a study in contrasts. Some of its pieces are moody and even old-fashioned in composition and execution, heavy as they are on piano and strings. They are of themselves impressive. Many of the tracks make liberal use of synthesized notes, sometimes interwoven with the more traditional instruments. As you get deeper into the album, LoDuca increasingly chooses a seemingly chaotic combination of instruments, creating a manic sense that fits the film and is an exciting listening experience.

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