It seems that Console’s Martin Gretschmann has always had a sweet tooth for electronic pop. While his first album resided in a landscape that recalled the modern electro-pop sounds of Mouse on Mars, this second album reaches back towards 80’s pioneers such as Orchestral Maneouvers, Kraftwerk, and the Human League. It’s catchy, fun, and full of surprises, retro but modern at the same time.
The Bay Area’s own version of Fat Cat returns with this fine EP from San Franciscan Kit Clayton. Seven tracks, ranging from minimal dub (a la Pole, Chain Reaction, etc.) to Detroit-style tech-house (think Jeff Mills, Rob Hood) to totally experimental soundscapes. Previous Drop Beat releases have all pushed beyond the restrictions of genre and this one is no exception.
For their third album release, Jason Swinscoe’s Cinematic Orchestra have progressed from creating their own imaginary movie soundtracks to creating the soundtrack for a real film. The film in question is Dziga Vertov’s silent Soviet masterpiece, MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA. It’s hard to believe that a film from 1929 incorporates the kinds of techniques and tricks we normally associate with modern-day music videos, like rapid-fire editing, repetition, animation, double exposures, split-screens, freeze-frames, slow motion sequences, and more. Yet it’s all there, and that makes the Vertov film a particularly inviting one to re-score. Swinscoe’s six-piece orchestra (plus string section) have done a fantastic job, with an all-instrumental soundtrack that deftly combines jazz and classical elements with trip hop beats, electronic noodlings, and more. Be sure to check out the 9-minute downtempo epic, “The Awakening of a Woman” as well as the playful and upbeat instrumental cover of the Art Ensemble of Chicago’s “Theme de Yoyo”.
A 1996 release from the ever-intriguing Sabotage label out of Austria. This six-track electro EP is more beat-heavy than bleep-heavy. “Device A” opens the circuit at a propulsive, trancey tempo, while “Device B” delays the signal to a more percolating groove. The standout component, though, is “Device F,” which combines knob-twiddly synths with sitar and some crunchy, John Bonham-inspired beats.
This EP of tracks from 1995 was a refreshing reminder to me of what “electronic listening music” was all about in the early 90’s: exploration and a sense of wonder. Before there was much of a “scene” to compare their work with or against, artists like The Black Dog were inventing a new musical language. And compared to much of today’s electronica, this sounds practically ambient. The tracks move at their own pace, stopping and restarting, or shifting rhythmic gears altogether, but always progressing, never redundant. There is some achingly beautiful music on here; thanks to Warp for giving us an opportunity to hear it after all this time.
Ethno-jazz fusion par excellence! Former Axiom label manager Peter Wetherbee co-produces and plays hand drums on this massive double-CD of live performances at New York City’s Bell Cafe. Tablas, digeridoos, and other (more obscure) ethnic instruments collide with electric guitars in a psychedelic world-music jam session, sounding something like a more improvised version of Material’s HALLUCINATION ENGINE. A dub sensibility is evident in the production, as vocals fade in and out, and bass and drums each take their turn in the spotlight. This is an exotic trip that is definitely worth taking…already firmly ensconced in my Top Ten for 1998.
As bands go, you can’t get much more basic than this: a bass player and a singer. That’s all. And that’s all you need, for this is the sound of Basque: spacious yet intimate, dramatic yet honest, simple yet unique. Aiming somewhere between the bluesier avenues of Portishead and the gothic sounds of Dead Can Dance, this Brooklyn duo creates a mystical blend of pop that’s totally compelling from start to finish. Music for candlelight and incense; a powerfully simple debut that’s going to be hard to improve on for future releases.
Arovane’s 4-track debut EP comes to us from Germany’s Din Records, who’ve previously delivered fine releases from Pole and Monolake. It’s prime bedroom electronica, full of ratchety rhythms and melancholy melodies. A very austere and beautiful release, which should appeal to fans of Autechre or Funkstorung. (Like me!) Bonus points for inventive use of static as a percussion instrument.
Originally released in 1992, “Digeridoo” is one of the first half-dozen releases from Richard D. James, and quite a milestone in the annals of electronic dance music. There are no digeridoos here, only the sound of a Roland 303 synth that has been tweaked, processed, or otherwise manhandled to emulate the sound of that Australian aboriginal instrument. Alternating between fairly ambient passages and stabbingly propulsive beats, the sound of “Digeridoo” is in fact the sound of the drugs kicking in. The other three tracks here operate in similar sonic territory, but none quite as successfully as the title track.
This is a great document of Yo Yo a Go Go, the indie music festival held in Olympia, Washington beginning in 1994. The 1999 fest has many highlights, from the simplicity of folky Mirah and Mountain Goats to Yo-Yo regulars/feminist icons Mecca Normal and The Need. Pop sweetness from Crabs and Sleater-Kinney always rock. The closer is Negativland leading the audience in a “sing along” of Casey Kasem’s raunchy outtakes. (added 6-21-2005)
Note: Language on 9, 21
Falling in between the ???Not the Way??? EP &
the ???I Cannot Lie??? 7??? single (both in the KFJC
library) is this debut full-length from Brooklyn
(by way of Baltimore) singer/songwriter CASS
MCCOMBS. The going here is slow and decidedly
innocent, though powerful & most endearing???
??????Aids in Africa, and cancer back home???.???
Acoustic guitar, piano, tambourine, + well-laid
melodies bestir this material, with best bets on
Side A ???What Isn???t Nature???, the deft details of
???A Comedian is Someone?????? ??????I spent my days,
shaking hands, forgetting names?????? sample also
Side B???s amiable ???Gee, it???s Good to be Back Home???,
the standout stanzas of ???When the Bible was Wrote???,
and an easygoing ???My Pilgrim Dear???. A former
PALACE player, MCCOMBS plays a swooning pop
of guitar and foreground emotion in oblique settings,
somewhere betwixt SIMON JOYNER + PEDRO THE
LION, and always, as noted by John Peel,
MITCH June 2005
Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players- “Vintage Slideshow Collections from Seattle, Vol. 1” – [Bar None] (CD)
This is a wacky pop opera/concept album that provides the soundtrack to their touring slideshow of found photos. You can pop the CD into a computer to see slides for a few songs. It IS a family affair, with the youngest Trachtenburg starting her drumming career at age 6. Kitschy lyrics inspired by Swiss fondue, corporate marketing memos, and tourists in Japan. 2003 release. (added 6-14-2005)
Based in Montreal, Hugo Girard is the man behind Vromb. Rayons is his fourth full-length release.
Mr. Girard‘s intent with this release (and I know because I read the press pack) is to capture different types of rays – hence Rayons – and translate them into music. The rough audio cuts of the songs were given to photographer Alain Gauvin, who was inspired to take some pictures around Montreal which appear on the album cover and the CD insert that should be inside the album cover. These photographs in turn inspired Mr. Girard‘s final mixing of these tracks.
All the sounds on this album, except for a touch of voice on one track, are synthetically generated. Despite the emphasis on light, to me it has a dark, ambient feel. Some tracks are amorphous with the beats in the background or non-existent and others pulse with the regularity of a lawn sprinkler.
Though they were originally intended as a one-off project, this is the third full-length release by Weird War. The line up is frontman Ian Svenonius and bass player Michelle Mae (who also play together in the Make-Up), guitarist Alex Minoff (with Mr. Svenonius and Ms. Mae are the Scene Creamers) and drummer Sebastian Thomson. It was released 4/19/05.
When I heard the synth roto-tom fills on the first track, I figured that this band was either completely naff or completely great. Of course, as I listened further I decided it was the latter. Combining elements of funk, disco, and glam with a solid rock underpinning, they are beyond irony, beyond tribute, and on to their own thing.
Ian Svenonius‘s vocals are all over the place, with from falsettos and sobs to blas? intonations. He said in an interview that the only bad sounding vocal is a quiet vocal. He makes his point on this CD. Alex Minoff solos through almost the whole album with a compressed distorted tone that I haven’t heard since I lost my Rockman.
The lyrics have some great lines like ‘Why do girls like guys like that?’ and ‘I may be weak but history will vindicate me,? and my personal favorite, “I don’t love you any more… Have a nice time at the war.”
Kazumi Nikaidoh, or Nika to her friends, is a Japanese singer/songwriter with a distinctive voice. This is her second album, released 2/2005, and it was recorded at her home when she got the chance between live shows. There are also two videos on this CD, one of a song that is not on the audio section of the CD.
Nika plays the acoustic guitar with a distinctive fingerpicking style but far more distinctive is her singing style, which can sound cute and childish at one point and then broken and jagged with little warning. There are long sections of wordless singing that drifts away from the key and out of the meter.
She is accompanied mostly by other acoustic instruments – piano, cello, flute, clarinet. This gives this CD a folky feel though parts of it sound poppy.
The Books, a New York-based duo, are Paul DeJong and Nick Zammuto. Lost And Safe is their third full-length release.
Put it on and you will hear acoustic instruments (guitar, banjo, cello, ?) sometimes highly processed and looped, sometimes not. But the most striking thing about this release is that about half the lyrics are from found recordings. Sometimes the spoken texts are obviously from different sources but they are put together to make a conversation which creates a rather unsettling effect. Other times it is oddly moving. The other lyrics are sung, spoken, or multi-tracked by Mr. Zammuto.
The overall feeling of this release is one of calm in the center of a storm, loneliness in a crowd, and safety in the midst of chaos. It’s perfect music for people watching in a crowded city. Xlr8r magazine called it 23rd centry bluegrass in their review, which is about right.
The songs on this promotional CD are in different order than the one that was released.
I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so attracted to
something and terrified by it at the same time? (Grace
Jones?) There’s something about Mu’s Mutsumi Kanamori that
screams for your attention, and just plain screams. Is she
a battle rapper at war with the world? She has zero tolerance
for poseurs, paparazzi parasites and pretty much anybody she
comes in contact who’s *not* named Luke. Lurking in the
shadows here Maurice Fulton is the beat pimp, slapping hand
claps and other Roland percussion together. He also doctors
Mu’s vox, from Darth Vaderification to Spaced Invader robo-
reverb. She adds her own effects, sounding like rooster,
coughing up dry heaves (on “Throwing Up” of course). A
twisted thread of justice and vengeance and English make
this a pretty powerful car crash. When she screeches
“Ugly lazy fuck loser”
I know she’s talking especially to me! File this under
disturbed disco… She’s probably a total sweetheart, but
for now, I’ll respect the restraining (dis)order.
Rock ‘n’ roll with its heart in the right place, smack dab
in the middle of its inflamed liver. Each song kinda climbs
up little ladders of riffs, with retro dirtbag guitar work
and those damn ninth chords. Kah-runchy. Very, very blarey,
and you can taste the amp hum on the “Exorcism.” Vocals are
that kind of pent-up soul screaming, with RNR-101 emphatics.
On the flip side a couple of covers, more party flavor…
kicking you square in the beer nuts. This time with cheeze
organ nacho baking on a copy of the Barkay’s “Copy Cat.”
Finally to top things off, Hendrix’s “Ain’t No Tellin'”
gets flamebroiled by these Oregon accumulators.
Shot-callin’ and fireballin’
Vocals blowing in the breeze, bursts of noise peppered guitar
and firecracker drums. What could you want, but more? A LOT
more… Melbourne trio that’s been touring with the Rogers
Sisters recently, and they deliver the same sort of blitzy,
frisky rock. All three sing, often through a squelchy mic.
Guitarist Luke Horton chews up strings, nice choppy chompy
chords and lines. When drummer Monika Fikerle and bassist
Antonia Sellbach both sing with great abandon, panicking is
fun!! Lyrics are kinda semaphoric. Flashed out and repeated.
Like instructions on a bottle of pills. The two remixes are
alright, #4 (“In the Red”) feels like a Tom Ze tribute at
the onset…but later on we get the full throttle drumming
from Maniakal Monika. “No Way Out” gets kinda 80’s Howard
Jones keyboards, a thickened bass, and limp-along handclaps.
Um, I strongly preferred the original’s head-rush. Check
with your doctor. One fine fibrillating debut.
Isn’t sorrow sublime? Yes. Is it wrong to feel a twinge of
joy as the tear streaks your cheek? No. For every summer
needs its shatter, and the beautiful things you float in
amber are dead. Craig Gurwich has a little sparrow’s trill
at the end of his voice and it’s a very pretty voice…then
he piles the reverb on with abandon. Not just on his voice
listen to the drums drop-p-p on “Rebecca.” He’s concocted
a Zombies meets Six Feet Under meets the kid who broke your
heart back in high school, and quit acting like you don’t
remember his/her name. Just go put this album on and look
darkly in the mirror and almost cry. This fine CD makes me
want to go hide all of Brian Wilson’s medication. Those who
think whistling is for getting blithely by the graveyard,
well they should listen to the whistling on #6. And for
those who feel lyrics always have to be cryptic to have
heft, c’mon you know all the lyrics to “Heard It Through
the Grapevine” and they get the job done. A lot of harm
can be done in the harmonies too! Especially when you’re
up the Creek without a major chord.
12345 S. El Monte Road Los Altos Hills, California 94022
Public Inspection File