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Music Reviews

Cheer Up Poems “Our Two Strings” [Wire Heart Recordings]

Mac   3/5/2005   A Library

Hailing from sleepy Duluth, MN comes Bill Reichelt’s venture into the world of electro-psych folk. These eight short songs explore many realms. For pure ambience, travel to the far lands of tracks 1, 4, and 8 whose beauty left Bill speechless.
Those with an itch for adventure should scale the twin peaks of tracks 2 & 6 and find at their zenith the rockin’ psych that combines the hard playing of the mountains with the calm obtained from standing atop the clouds. Here Bill’s lyrics fade into the expansive musical beyond.
After a long day’s journey, sit under the stars around the fire and put on tracks 3, 5 and 7 where Bill’s raspy, plaintive vocals will send you on a sleepy voyage to the dream world.

Xiu Xiu vs Bunkbed – split 33 rpm [Turn Records]

Thurston Hunger   3/5/2005   7-inch, A Library, Format

Xiu Xiu’s Jaime Stewart sings from a pulsating amnion of
keyboards, rippled acoustic guitar and a slow-motion marimba.
Gutter-gasping “It’s over” in an intimate tale of immolation.
A piercing light shines through towards the end but the grey
overcast nature of the song is what resonates and remains with
you. That and the fact the composer of the song is no longer
around, Bunkbed’s Keith Krate died in September 2002.

The tragedy of that death is driven home on the other side,
a Bunkbed song that sounds like a ballon tied to a hundred
synth strings. Another sort of womb warping to this track,
but Krate’s sugary harmonies float above the liquid sound this
time. Too pretty to stay aloft?

Each song invokes the power of dream in words and hopefully
beyond. Between the countless “It’s over” refrains, Stewart
also sings, “It never ends.” Whether that refers to the dream,
or the pain, only Krate knows now.

Afrirampo “First EP” [Gyuune Cassette]

Thurston Hunger   3/5/2005   A Library, CD, Format

The first time I heard Afrirampo was a live set on Brian
Turner’s show on WFMU. I felt like I had seen them… I’ve
been dying for another taste ever since. This is their first
album and it’s the first “free pop” I’ve come across so far.
With efforvescent vocals, and the GOOD sort of short attention
span, a drummer who kicks asteroids, and these rising surges
of vocals. From howler monkey screams to lunar crooning to
shrieky speak to orgasmic laughter. Effects are used once,
not milked to death. You could talk about male-dominated
Japanese culture and make a case for the welling up of some
female spirits, but this is just plain unbridled creativity
erupting like a day glo volcano. These wild women are
fingerpainting with their entire bodies. Self-obsessed?
Yep. Ninja rhythms? Uh-uh. Oni and Pikacyu are here to save
the world with naked energy. Domo Ariblotto!

Antony and the Johnsons “I Am A Bird Now” [Secretly Canadian]

Thurston Hunger   3/5/2005   12-inch, A Library, Format

Antony’s voice remains a blessed bandage for all the hurt of
his lyrics. So rich in its delicacy, and so heartfelt that
the aging celebrity vampires who flock to him are simply
overpowered by it. It’s a stake through the phantom hearts
of Boy George, Rufus Wainwright and Lou Reed, and yes they
all are on here…wait, wait don’t run away. The quavering
croon beckons you back poking at the the vulnerability of
life (and vinyl, goddamn our copy had a scar pop bruise on
it right out of the bird canal). Our strange changeling moves
through the family tree here, with songs of boys/girls/sisters
but strives for the higher branches, where only a bird can
alight. I love it when his voice is doubled, trebled and
trembled on top of itself. I try to listen to the words but
his voice lulls me into just hearing the emotions. His many
Johnsons too should get some credit, they are the make-up
that can stand the spotlight. Evidently Julia Kent was in
Rasputina, and here she applies sweet doses of lacrimose.
The enzyme that breaks our bodies down… Right now Antony
has all the fleeting luster of a shooting star, here’s hoping
he breaks out of the tragic trajectory, the collision course,
the fiery fate and instead gets lodged in a safe heavenly
orbit. With a piano and several costume changes. It’s a bird,
it’s a plane, it’s a man, it’s a woman, it’s Antony.

DJ Shadow – ?Mashin? On The Motorway/Walkie Talkie? – [Island] – (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   2/27/2005   12-inch, Hip Hop

This is a double 12″ single released in June 2003 and consisting mostly of remixes of tracks by DJ Shadow. Oddly enough the title tracks (and the only two radio edits) are on sides B and D.

This is turntable-ing, MC-ing, and remix-ing at its finest. If you like hip-hop even a little, then you will find something to like about this release.

Be sure to check out the Soulwax remix of Six Days (D1), which is almost a DJ Shadow/B-52s mash up, and D4, which is a fast and funny track that would work well on a drive shift.

C1 stretches out a bit, starting with a sample of DJ Shadow from the excellent Scratch documentary, then taking a detour into techno, then back to the turntables. For a more dark, techno vibe, check out B1.

Language: A1 (Check the title), B2 (Though it is a ‘radio edit,? the word motherfucking is barely concealed. I had to listen carefully to hear that the word was scrubbed.)
–Hunter Gatherer

James White – ?Flaming Demonics? – [Ze Records] – (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   2/27/2005   12-inch, A Library

James White (a.k.a. James Chance n’e James Siegfried) has great taste in suits and oh, by the way, is one of the main characters associated with the late 70’s/early 80’s No Wave scene in NYC.

This album, released in 1983, is his last studio release of five (if you count his LP with the Contortions and the 4 tracks on the No New York compilation, which we have in A on 12″). Ze Records was recently revived and moved to France by label co-founder Michel Esteban, who provides excellent liner notes that are definitely worth a read.

The music is demented, cacophonous, and chaotic. Most tracks find the rhythm and horn section working a minimal funk riff, while Mr. White wails away on his tenor sax frenetically. He sings too.

This is an incredibly energetic album. At least one track will have you dancing around like a maniac. Like he shouts in another song: ‘Try being stupid instead of smart.’ Good advice for us and advice he takes as well.

Three word review: VOODOO DISCO JAZZ
–Hunter Gatherer

Hood – ?Outside Closer? – [Domino Recording] – (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   2/27/2005   12-inch, A Library

This is Hood’s sixth full-length release and their first one in four years. But the Leeds, UK-based quartet have released some singles and EPs in that period.

The music is beautiful and smart indie pop, equal parts natural sounds (guitar, vocals, drums, violin, piano) and electronic sounds (sampled vocal loops, beats, synth). It sounds like it has less electronics than it really does.

It may take a few listens to get through the shiny finish. Though each song is it’s own creation and has its own sound, the entire album hangs together.

Each side starts off with an upbeat track and then unwinds into an introspective vibe. I really like this album.

Language: B1 (‘fuck’)
–Hunter Gatherer

Underground Resistance – “Return of Acid Rain Ii, the ” – [Underground Resistance]

Hunter Gatherer   2/27/2005   12-inch, A Library

By the time this EP was released Underground Resistance was just ‘Mad? Mike Banks, the two other co-founders, Jeff Mills and Robert ‘Noise? Hood, having gone off to explore other opportunities. It was released in 1994.

UR, always the political group, is warning us about the perils of acid rain, a particular problem in Detroit it seems. You need to read actual album to find this out, for it is impossible to deduce this from the music.

And the music is Detroit techno. The versatile Roland 303 is the primary instrument, and it is being put to good use creating lots of good acid-y sounds. The tracks are short-ish — for techno anyway — ranging from 2:20 to 4:19.

My only complaint is that the tracks seem to end just when they are getting a groove. Maybe the acid rain got them.

–Hunter Gatherer

Rewind! 4 [coll] – [Ubiquity Records]

Hunter Gatherer   2/27/2005   A Library, CD

This is the 4th in the excellent Rewind series put out by California label Ubiquity. The Rewind series has new artists and bands covering and updating (and sometimes completely changing the genres of) classic songs.

There are some amazing remakes covering a wide range of genres covered on this CD. There is soul/R&B (1,4,6,12), world/Afro/Latin-beat (2,5,6), spacey electronica (7,9), and folkish (3,11).

There are several tracks that simply must be heard:

(1)An impossibly funky cover of This Land Is Your Land by Sharon Jones & The Daptones, which I’ve reviewed on the 7″ release.

(2)The folky cover of Cameo’s Word Up!

(4)Alice Russell belting out her version of 7 Nation Army by The White Stripes. It sounds like this is the original and the White Stripes cover it, and the liner notes agree with me on this point.

The Joni Mitchell cover doesn’t really add anything to the original, though it is beautifully sung. Burt Bacharach’s Look Of Love gets slowed down and sung through a vocoder.
–Hunter Gatherer

Phonophani – “Oak or Rock ” – [Rune Grammafon]

Hunter Gatherer   2/27/2005   A Library, CD

Phonophani is Norwegian programmer/composer/studio engineer Espen Sommer Eide. He is also – of Alog and 1/5 of Boiling Fjords. This is his third release as Phonophani and his 2nd on Rune Grammofon. It was released 8/2004.

Mr. Eide writes his own computer software for manipulating sound samples, and helpfully includes a sample program that you can download from his website. The sounds on this CD are either entirely synthesized or high processed organic sounds. Rhythms and melodies are spare. The emphasis is squarely on the timbre of the sounds, which are somewhere in the space between natural and processed sounds (Oak or Rock?).

The songs have an icy and austere feel. The piano, organ, string, and vocal samples sound like they are refracted through ice.

All songs are instrumental, though 9 contains vocal samples that make it unsuitable for a bed.
–Hunter Gatherer

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