No sophomore slump, just a deeper drop into the coma for this
Chicago quartet. Stonergaze with stacks of sonic blankets.
It opens in a wind tunnel, and most following tracks ride on
solar winds. Guitars can whoosh…especially when washed out.
Vox are pulled into to the vacuum by way of an anglo(?) accent
almost forcing a comparison to Slowdive. Although rarely does
the Z aim for catchiness, happier to just glide. Each lyric
seems to evaporate before the next, leaving little residue.
Which is okay, as the band more steadfastly pursues reverbic
resonance. The sound from beginning to end is consistent.
Evidently Mike Weis is the drummer, and possibly narcoleptic.
The mark of a good drummer is to not play certain notes,
but Mike is able to do so for entire songs. Brian Harding
not only blows cumulus keyboards but even breathes deep on
clarinet. Neil Jendon joined the group last, but I think it
is his puddles of guitar that help Zelienople (named after
somewhere in PA) find a nice region between drone and pop.
“Don’t Be Lonely” hits the high-water mark for me, but it
all stays afloat. As Richard Nixon once Grimble Grumbled,
“It is indeed a windy city!”
No sophomore slump, just a deeper drop into the coma for this
Thurston Hunger 7/27/2004 A Library
Germans Kai Althoff und Stephan Abry have been Workshop for a
number of years, this is their seventh release. Althoff is
also an artist (canvases) and thus this by defintion is art
rock, but it’s also damned diverse. His singing is often
on-the-fly pitched and glitched, but it’s still singing. This
release plays like a band, men more than Matmos. (Although
the mysterious Rath may be a woman.) Workshop looks to its
electronics without overlooking more human elements. Like
beats dropped in at less than precise moments, and good
punch-drunk guitars on #2. They list a lot of collaborators,
depending on which track/door you come in, this album will
look like an entirely different house. Beat palace, prog
cubicles, broken pop stand, reggae shack. The processed vox
at times crack me up (not that I understand the German) but
that zippling effect has been used in really cheezy R&B in
the past. There’s Fodder for the whole Family here, all
Pharoah Sanders remains a regal presence, here we hear him
ascending the pyramidal throne with a throng of amazing
musicans. Sonny Sharrock is on here with bubbling guitar,
dual double bass quadruple soul are laid solid by Sirone
and Cecil McBee. Leon Thomas steals the show with a baritone
yodel that is deeper than the soul…much of this album
despite fiery flourishes, has an R&B skeleton. Sturdy yet
flowing. “Prince of Peace” comes with bells of peace and
sweet washes of sound. “Balance” has be-bop chops and
Sharrock gets more turbulent on this. There’s a nice dry as
a rattlesnake’s skin percussion break as well. The big
payoff is the title track, all 28:50 of it. Thomas’ jazz
yodel returns, transplanted from the river of “Prince”
to a garden of sounds galore. Branches of percussion sway,
thumb piano ferns wave and flutebird moves in and out
of the growth. Free jazz, fire music in its most deceptively
cool environs. All done in 1969…this along with “Tauhid”
are essential Sanders. Towering.
Three piece suits themselves to the pleasure of panic attacks
and heavy doses of teenage sexual frustration (the lyrics
are copped from singer Sandra’s diary.) Tinny but not tiny
punk with sloppy joe guitar from Ryan, who just as he starts
to master the six-string halfway through this one-sided
monomaniacal hormone-laced vinyl release dumps the guitar
for his true love, synthesizers that make Quintron sound
like Lawrence Welk. And oh yeah, that’s Paul drumming at gun
point…and just as sure-handed as you would expect. This
album screams for attention, but it also just screams for
the sake of screaming. Fiesty fits of songs get bored with
the listener before vice-versa…repetition of lyrics keeps
the insistence levels high, the insolence meanwhile is
bubbling out of your pancreas as these L.A. Drugs detune
out, turn on you and drop their drawers. Music to scratch
scabs to…not necessarily your own. Purely puerile!
PS A locked groove to *start* and *end* this…
Fourth serving of this Montreal mixture, chiefly stirred and
slurred by Scott Chernoff. Molasses is a material known for
its being dark, thick and slow…those qualities ooze forth
on this release as well. Of course, lower case molasses is
the reduction of sweet sugar cane, while Molasses is the
reduction of the more sour aspects of life. “Jinx” is almost
spiritually devoted to despondency, and distilled with tiny
drones too. Prayers are tossed on the slowburn of the lyrics
fairly often, sunshine threatens at times to break thru but
Chernoff’s heavy-to-the-point-of-herniated vocals prevent
any gravity-defying or even the robbing of grave feelings.
His broken spoken words get ghosted by Jennifer Menard
and others. The songs are usually set in the hazy strum of
a guitar chord or three, augmented nicely by harrowing
haloes of GodSped guitars. Add in stretchy acoustic bass,
a most morose marimba, slow-bowed saws…all keeping the
pace and outlook bleak. This CD is a rustic rocking chair
on a porch somewhere mossy, but its runners are rusted
so it can’t move too much. Still well carved.
Guileless yet wily comes Joanna Newsom. A recent adoptee of
the Bay Area, has touched notes and hearts with the Pleased
and Nervous Cop, this album is nearly 100% her and her alone.
Pluckier than her harp strings and luckier than the stars
above, her soothing songs connect ancient Greek minstrels to
Vulcan folk songs. Her harp is such a mammoth instrument,
its menacing stature belieing its lamb-like nature. Newsom’s
voice exists outside of time, she likely sang this way when
she was 8, and still will when she’s 80. At her shriller
moments, she may prove too much the harpy for some. For me,
I’m completely enchanted…having seen her live next to
her harp enhanced the childlike nature of the performance.
She does play some other instruments here as well, including
harpsichord adding to the anachronistic pull of this LP.
It’s a cozy album, in package and in play. Her lyrical
wool-gathering kept me enrapt, others may find it too
bramble and briar. For me, it’s just plum peachy!
Six piece ensemble of Montreal McNuggets led by reedman Pierre
Labbe. While this album has moments that fly like free jazz
(stoking the Ornette Coleman stove on #7) and slices of the
lead-off track, this album does toss a lot of proggy precision
down the pipe as well. #6 is the zenith of the latter. Overall
spidery cello and spiky violin keep the listeners on our toes
with meticulously mapped stretches between the improv work.
Toss in a lot of cuckoo clock percussion and you get an album
that snaps into place more than it swings to and fro. Bernard
Falaise (from Miriodor) knifes guitar through at key times,
notably on “Bloops!!” Also on #3 he brings a sort of Masada
coolness and on #8 his work against Labbe’s sax stairsteps
up nicely in the bookend composed sections surrounding more
free fire from Labbe. The more Falaise the better on this
album for me and Labbe’s flute work is gusty and gutsy. The
last piece is a gorgeous slow farewell to a largely skittish
album. Several tracks go from spellbinding to sonically
dispelled in seconds, it succeeds and fails in weird ways.
You shoulda seen justa what eye heard. Twins here share the
same genetic material, a loose blueprint more than a score,
but diverge wildly. The idea of 30 odd improvisers in a
blender may scare some away, but Moe Staiano is remarkably
up to the match. Indeed, more remarkable is his manic energy
when leading these conductions. “Piece No. 5” has the same
exhilaration of a run-away train, it relies on percussion
especially snare-kept-a-rollin’ rhythmns. Which is not to
say that there aren’t Dreyblattic string charges, very nice
theremin freak-outs, those bouncy Korean style gongs and a
funny coda at the start of #6, kinda like falling down
circular stairs. I’m partial to “Piece No. 4” thanks to its
KFJC connection and I think a more vibrant recording by our
own Akeem. Additionally, while percussion furnaces are
churning, the horns are more out front, we get some searing
Jesse Quattro exhortations, even Looney piano can be heard
through the din along with barbed cello and the return of
the theremin though in more of a Hitchcock mood. Yeah, there
are moments when the center cannot hold, but those might be
your favorites moments. Moehem!
Thurston Hunger 4/29/2004 A Library
Mirah, Mirah on the wall, whose Cat has the most Power of them
all? Acoustic guitar, triple espresso, librarian loosening up,
songcraft here won’t disappoint the K Recs kognoscenti. Mirah
is Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn, she has spent time in the Microphones
and Phil Elvrum is on board here to engineer. Indeed “Look Up!”
gets the M’s squelchy drum trademark sound. Splatch splatch.
The percussion here is often painted pinpoint perfect to expand
the plaintiff songs at their centers. Other peculiar touches
are added (although nothing quite as cinematic results as the
lush treatment found on the recent “Cold, Cold Water 7”.) But
this is nowhere near overproduced, indeed great restraint is
used more often than not, “You’ve Gone Away Enough” has these
nice breathy verses a la Kate Bush’s illegitimate daughter.
Really this is more power folk, than pop…while the songs are
short they canter, never gallop. Horse Power? Even the album
title sounds like a shout to show at the sweeepstakes.
The premise is promising to me at least, searching for a
connection between Conet style transmissions and the Delphic
Oracle. Something about a human voice, or in this case two,
that tends to make the more difficult music at KFJC a little
more readily received. The piano on here is sharp, and notes
are dropped on what feel like curves plotted algorithmically.
Static blurts and morse meanderings add signal strength to the
sparse “symphony.” Tracks #4 and #5 stood out for me. #6 adds
a Latin air to the proceedings. The two other compositions
feature a slow gyroscopic drone (#7) and the last track is a
new sort of insect killer, it lures them out onto a dancefloor
of sorts where they tiptoe between spiked heels and bopping
boots. Bravo Echo Bravo!
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