Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Album Reviews 2003

Clann Zú - Rua
G7 Welcommign Committee

Out of Australia, Clann Zú sound like more of an Irish classical-folk ensemble at times. Gearing towards the darker epics, at times they have the sound of what may be likened to celtic or wiccan folk of medieval and earthly instruments such as violins, fiddles, flutes and deep purcussion. Including the electronic assistance of beats and synths in other moments they can seem like and early U2 gone elaborately poetic. Overall, the atmosphere can be captivating as they utilize post-rock techniques of layering, development and experimentation. -Stu

The Patients - Mary Claire La Flare EP
Permafrost Records

This new band out of Toronto was really a suprisingly fresh sound. Very dedicated to rich and fulfilled songwriting, the rebirth of honest pop-rock, influenced at moments by the fascinating sounds of soul and country-folk, comes about on a newly respected level with this release. The Jonathan Richmond styled vocals are a perfect match to highly upbeat and contstantly cool guitar, piano, organ and horn playing members on the album. It's definitely a work of art to keep an eye on and your ear open to. -Stu

Castle Oldchair - Sad Pants

Described as odd folk-pop, these songs indeed have a cuteness to them that comes out of their airy and acoustic adventerous style. Very laid back and listenable, the opening song may throw you off as it is a unique experiment of sound mutation. The rest of the album though is a great vision of warm lazy afternoons, rainy days, dusty roads and lonesomely happy places. Vocals are strong and comforting, very fitting and even destined for this style of music. -Stu

Ambitious Career Woman - ...To Avoid a Lawsuit
Lujo Records

An interesting mix of a dirty old-school hardcore punk and early emo-core sound. Sometimes grinding and once in a while melodic, each track is a driving and stabbing rock anthem worthy of satisfaction. The overall sound gets me cofused at times as this group surely escapes any focused genre labelling in such a subtle way. There are sound similarities from Don Cabellaro, to Rancid, to Rodan, to Anti-Flag, to Dillinger Escape Plan and to any of those HxC bands out there that like to scream like a tough fucker. -Stu

Suffering & The Hideous Thieves - All My Friends are on Prozac
Lujo Records

This is a release of 4 remastered songs from the Hidious Thieves' Real Panic Formed release. If you're a fan of their dark sense of chambre-like music sung over by monotonous intensity, it's a real treat to hear the additions and through a clearer perspective. The songs included are All My Friend Are on Prozac, Do You Know?, Immaculate Sound of Infiniti and Falling. -Stu

Gorguts - Obscura

These Montreal based death metalers dish out an album that is definitely one for all of you fans of the "kill your mother, rape your father" type music. Except the difference here is that none of the lyrics or music are about such low-intelligence requiring topics. The lyrics deal with meditation, higher levels of consciousness, and paradox. Not that you can understand them under the tortured growls blurted out by singer/guitarist Luc Lemay. The musical part of this is also pretty anti-musical. It sounds like a complex atonal-jazz exercise buried under heaps of distortion. The drumming is another thing in itself. Constantly he will play two contrasting sections of rhythm together to form a mosaic-like layering effect. This is by far my favourite metal album of all time. -Poib

John Zorn - Cobra

This album is a party in a box!! Well, as far as atonal free improvisation goes. I'm sure most of you are scratching your heads on this one, but his isn't for the mentally faint of heart. This features the cream of the crop of the downtown New York avant-garde scene in groups of up to 8 musicians playing a musical game that Zorn directs using game cards. He will raise a card and that will determine what musicians play, what style and for what duration. Sometimes he will direct the musicians to play 4 different genres of differing tempos and feels on top of each other in a massive musical war. The sounds range from guitar harmonics, to manic jazz drumming, to sampled sound effects, and duck calls. Listening to this reminds me of that point on a 10 gram mushroom trip where your mind snaps and the oozing tar of randomness seeps and soaks all over your entire body. Is this good Friday night drinking music?? Definitely not. But this is one of those albums that you can fall asleep to and be guaranteed to slip into some wonderfully psychotic slumber. -Poib

Raking Bombs - You are the Resliajiazx, Unlike 001100110

A sporadic sound has this record gaining my attention from the first minute, and throughout. The uneasy vocals are terrific, reminding of the early post-punk and emo-core style with eyes rolling into the back of heads. Mixed with sampling and twangy death rock, it's an all-over-the-place and high paced listen composing of wandering songwriting and unexpected turns. -Stu

The WPP - He Has the Technology

The WPP, formerly known as The Witness Protection Program, have worked to release this full-length of new and improved manic-spazz post-punk that is a sound of their own. Following the 'Boom! Jam!' and 'Baam! Jaam!' EPs, the new lineup since their last full length shows no loss of stride in this bands development. Each song is as original as ever, full of stops, guitar quirks, hard screams and melody written to mystery. New areas and elements are explored as with such tracks as Hawaiian Jam, a laid back and cool instrumental with a confusing sound of seagulls, and on 'Where Strides the Behemoth' the choral chanting is a fine surprise. -Stu

The Prime-Time Sublime Community Orchestra - ( )
Corporate Blob Records

The idea of this parenthetical titling is that you can put your own title in. That's right, write it right on the copy should you have of this album. I'm calling mine My Neo-Classical Runneth Over. I call it this because this orchestra takes a post-classical substrate and spreads over it a thick jam of electronic and ethnic seasoning. "Holy War in Your Pants" has Eastern and Western instrumental, while "A Day at The Mall" is an easy listening tune with free jazz, Chinese music and Native American chanting. The rest of the six tracks is a post-bop infusion into a chamber work ("Erectile Cognitive Bop Bits") and more unexpected cross-genre collages from the sophisticated sonic kaleidoscopes of "Pomp and Vindaloo" (curried '60s with bossa nova), "Fellini's Pickup Truck" (avant-bluegrass jazz) and the grab bag of "Invocation and Fanfare of the Tahitian Garbage Fairies" with Polynesian percussion section. (5) -Tom Schulte

Brian Jonestown Massacre - ..And This is our Music
Tee Pee Records

Shimmering, neo-psychedelic cosmic space ballads fill this CD. The paisley-printed music is stylistically uniformed and alluring in its sublime beauty. These songs bask in a soft, lysergic glow of a multi-colored and expansive soundscape where each track is an unhurried nugget unearthed between early Rolling Stones and Velvet Underground. (4) -Tom Schulte

Cul De Sac - The Strangler's Wife
Strange Attractors

This tense score for Roger Corman's film hides malevolence under its surface ("Second Victim") that also occasional shimmers with a soft, moonlit beauty ("Lovemaking/Mae's Theme"). Cul De Sac's instrumental music that crosses genres and never fails to expand upon itself is well suited to being the audio canvas for the complex motivations for murder. Cul De Sac seeks to and succeeds at a creation inspired by '70s film soundtracks with avant-rock leanings, such as Nosferatu (Popol Vuh) and More (Pink Floyd). Going in an understated, ambient direction, the group succeeded in this through a somewhat ad hoc approach. Some pieces of the composition were brought in to the studio while other portions were composed on the spot or improvised as the film played in the studio. (4.5) -Tom Schulte

Laibach - Wat

The Slovenian crypto-fascism (avant-totalitarianism?) that pervades this group's art continues to provoke thought and confuse. The German-sung lyrics fit nicely with the cold, industrial beats but does nothing to clarify the message for most. The austere and authoritative delivery seeks a Nuremberg Cathedral of Light backdrop, but without being intimidated by the group's stylism (Nazi officers always had the best uniforms), we can agree there are two points worth considering here. (1) This is a good industrial record that should not be missed. (2) Why? (3.5) -Tom Schulte

Neurosis & Jarboe - s/t
Neurot Recordings

A current of ambient noise occasionally wells to ominous thunderheads on this recording. Vocalist Jarboe (Swans) exquisitely offsets the gloomy menace with her exquisite, cold and crystalline vocals. Of course the music is not all doom-and-gloom. Quite often glinting acoustic guitar and warm melodies break through to shine down on the damaged land. This is an album of texture and mood that dispenses with the shock-and-awe approach of the military industrial-metal complex to find a rich and fertile land far from both the predictable hard rock derivatives and the threat of new age. (4) -Tom Schulte

KK Null - Atomic Disorder
Neurot Recordings

KK Null achieved wide recognition in his landmark series of recordings as guitarist for post-hardcore outfit Zeni Geva, a band deadly intensity and seriousness. Here, however, Null shows us his side as an electronic composer for a cacophonous symphony of electro-noise. The episodes of ragged drumbeats are the most engaging where. With Japanese simplicity the low, over-modulated percussion is contrasted with high, metallic clangs. This is exhibited on the first track of this CD where each track is untitled. Otherwise, KK Null seems to flounder at the most basic level seeking a direction for this incoherent opus. Perhaps that is where the title comes from! (3) -Tom Schulte

Android Lust - The Dividing

Shikhee takes her vocals from a hoarse whisper to the allure of sweet melody on The Dividing. There is an anger and even malevolence to this music that makes is straddle the cold calm of darkwave and the fiery assault of industrial music. Fans of Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson can appreciate this music as well as fans of Arcana and Projekt labelmates Black Tape for a Blue Girl. Android Lust is really The Shikhee Experience, as she also provides programming and keyboards. Perhaps this is harbinger of a more sophisticated, arty neo-industrial trend. -Tom Schulte

Brazelton/Naphtali - What is it like to be a Bat?

Track 15 here could be a great follow-up and maybe even answer song for Talking Head's "Life During Wartime". The entire album has such imaginative and vivid lyrics mostly immersed in a noisy art-punk freakout with visitations of clarion, operatic vocals. Kitty Brazelton and Dafna Naphtali continually careen their big music machine toward the cliff of cacophony before taking it back into digital chamber punk or an avant-jazz/hard rock rumble. This is a massively majestic album, at times scary, with this spirited land featuring by sophisticated oases of punk attitude and clamorous sounds of arena rock size. -Tom Schulte

Sean Noonan / Aram Bajakian - CHiPs

This duo is Sean Noonan of The Hub (drums) and Aram Bajakian (guitar). This promises to be only one of a future collaboration between Aram, master of "mysterious" guitar, and Sean's jazzy, no wave percussion. In this project the group veers from quiescent, tranquil ruminations on a simple melodic theme to stormy free jazz excess. This is what I would imagine collaboration between Fred Frith and Whit Dickey to be like. -Tom Schulte

Dave Brockie Experience - Songs for the Wrong
Metal Blade

If you still chuckle over the sick jokes of GWAR's 1992 Metal Blade release The Road Behind and other albums, then you may be one of the "wrong" that Dave Brockie has toilet humor and heavy metal for on this album. It would seem that songs like "Hard for a 'tard", "March of the Faggot Soldiers" and "Should the Ugly Girl Blow Me?" are more outlandish than even GWAR is known for. It is like M.O.D.-written songs done by GWAR on this album. You better get this know before the bluenoses find out and have the whole thing recalled and the masters destroyed. Then, Brockie surprises at the end with a poignant ballad about a soldier's death ("Churchmouse in the Snow") and a rousing pub rock eulogy to someone in a coffin like Peter and the Test Tube Babies at the funeral of one of their own, "Isn't is Grand Boys?" For the record, this GWAR side project is Oderus Urungus (Brockie) with Balsac (Mike Derks) guitar. Jizmak (Brad Roberts) completes the trio on drums and the band does not use costumes or make-up. -Tom Schulte

Glenn Branca - The Ascension
Acute Records

The Ascension originally came out in 1981. This is the domestic debut on CD of the work, completely remixed by Weasel Walter of The Flying Luttenbachers. It is an enhanced CD featuring a video clip of a Branca performance from 1978. This album was the order formed from the determined chaos of Branca's prior no wave bands The Static and Theoretical Girls. There is a focused aggression that is delivered with measured steps The guitar army that performs these instrumental avant-rock pieces is five strong, including a bassist. One of those is Lee Ranaldo. Ranaldo pens the liner notes that puts this monstrous opus in the context of New York at that time, when the musicians on here had come of age to Velvet Underground, Stockhausen, John Cage and more. Ranaldo reminds us that Branca did radical theater pieces before moving on to music. The music here written by Branca contains that sense of dramatic impact and larger-than-life scale that comes from his stage experience. This is also the closest thing to a rock album from this period so is the most accessible gateway into his art. -Tom Schulte

The Caribbean - History's First Know-It-All

The experimental pop of The Caribbean has more to it than a first glimpse might leave you with. While even the first glance will reveal a painstaking effort in the construction of each song mastered to a perfection, the network behind the music can be handed off as an improvisational advancement as the members prefer their long distance approach to collaborating with each other through emails and phone calls. Out of it all a dreamy shoegazer style comes about hidden in the east coast tech-geek habit of creating intelligently simple pop out of layers and layers of material. The dark and driving moods are a moving listen, and amazingly the overall sound is relaxed and not too noticeably cluttered as any artist would strive to present. -Stu

Estel - A Guide in Time of Great Danger
Little Plastic Tapes

This indie release came all the way from Ireland to be reviewed. On board with its sounds of adventurous instrumental keyboard rock, it's an interesting take on melody driven post-rock and has no loss of heart when it comes to raw and real production. The composure comes out traditionally and of more professional character than most indie releases, but that also makes it out to be a little more uninteresting in that no new real ground seems to be covered. The synth and piano help carry the songs into the similar dimensions of post-rock greats such as Swans, or the instrumental vigor of Mogwai while still remaining an upbeat act. -Stu

Swimming is Floating - Shark Attack Day Camp

Video game inspired music is the ultimate score of the techno punk genre, seen here with distorting the overtly poppy and inspiring jingles that we've grown up on such as a take on the theme from Nintendo's Mike Tyson's Punchout, and the theme from Disney's cartoon Ducktales. More 80's sounding moog and punk abound on much of the continuing tracks, constructed single-handedly with inclusions of generated beats and live guitar. Taking you from a magical fantasy land of cyber superheroes to the basement of a guy who likes to fuck around with his experiments in tehno-pop music. -Stu

People Like Us and Kenny G - Nothing Special

No, this isn't anything you can ever expect from such a title, unless of course you're familiarized with the outrageous wit of People Like Us. The thirteen tracks are a new release of the artist Vicki Bennett's extremely non-conventional signature sound; this sound, simply explained as 100% re-sampled audio clips and pieces arranged and layered anew. The outcome may leave you preoccupied with confusion, but can generally come about as a dynamically uneasy, calmly disturbing or utterly hilarious scheme. The sounds and samples used come from an endless collection of old tv show clips, instructional and documentary tapes, obscure spoken word, 80's synth, pop, country, jazz and classical records, among other interesting moments that pop up more than occasionally. It really leaves you wondering where the hell they find some of these clips that have been rearranged into this new musical dream (or nightmare) world. -Stu

Sixteen Horsepower - Olden
Jetset Records

As a collection of songs from 1993 and 1994 that have previously been unreleased, the 20 track collection is a sure display of the respected talent that is well known to this group. David Eugene Edwards, the grandson of a traveling Nazarene preacher, carries the great influences of Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash and Nick Cave that are ultimately revealed through each song's captivating storytelling and mystical atmosphere. If you have never heard Sixteen Horsepower, it is a very unexpected revelation of an amazing experience. -Stu

Tora! Tora! Torrance! - A Cynics Nightmare
The Militia Group

Here's another young, snotty, fashionable, energetic and british sounding rock & roll band that the scenester kids can talk about at school. Groundbreaking stuff here, guys. GROUNDBREAKING! -Stu

This Bright Apocalypse - Motion and Rest
54 40' or Fight

A dark and painful sounding influence of Sunny Day, melodic hardcore, and post-rock riff climbing, this album has a great expansion of musical flexibility. The vocals are a little stuffed and stained with some sort of accent, and are as stable as can be wanted, fitting well with the unique musical style while even pulling off multi-part harmonies that raise the emotional energy of each song considerably. It can all come off as overly artistic, with bongos and toms coming in, switching from heavy to soft at odd but predictable moments, as well as sometimes growing a little overdramatic. They are talented and passionate though and should be respected for this record. -Stu

The Redscare - Eight Pieces of Summer
Teenage Rampage

Vancouver's The Redscare seem a happy bunch, carrying memories back to the days of DBS and wholehearted post-pop fun. These songs of summer are innocent and driven by the great songwriting of indie rock creativity which comes out amazingly in this record. It's fun and fast, rough and splendidly off, all without loosing any part of each song's capability. Listening to these songs is a dancibly exciting time, and may bring you to that state of 'emo' nostalgia while hearing the sounds of friends and the subtleties of heartwrench. -Stu

Krakatoa - We are the Rowboats
Cuneiform Records

Cuneiform does a great service in bringing back into the light forgotten and important and often insanely rare albums. We are the Rowboats sounds as if it could be some krautrock-inspired prog rockers pushing their analog equipment to the limits in the '70s onto a forgotten and lost vinyl master. But indeed, this Brooklyn group is young and contemporary, although there influences are not so contemporary. Drawing off of King Crimson, Mothers of Invention and Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, Krakatoa produces wondrous and wildly divergent music full of drama. Bold violin (Glendon Jones) recalls the music of Curved Air. The dramatic element probably comes from the fact that musicians met as members of The Lost Art of Puppet Orchestra where they put on shadow puppet theater with live music. (4.5) -Tom Schulte

Comets On Fire - Comets On Fire
Alternative Tentacles

This is a wild ride of reckless abandon that recalls the early Butthole Surfers albums. This Santa Cruz band would have been on the early Rat Music for Rat People compilations, with groups like the Surfers and Big Boys. The cathartic, lysergic rock freak out also recalls the early, heavy Sub Pop sonic damage, like Lubricated Goat and the Blue Cheer-inspired Mudhoney. This is a CD reissue of the groups first LP, with six bonus tracks. (3.5) -Tom Schulte

The Moglass - The Moglass
Nexsound Records

This is an album of cinematic, sweeping instrumental electronica ala Tangerine Dream. Guitar and bass manipulations suggest a Fred Frith influence. However, the influence the band offers is Paul Bowles books. Just as the desert is itself a character in The Sheltering Sky, the most famous of Bowles' books, so does this music suggest a haunting impressionism of the yawning emptiness of The Sahara that lied to the south of Bowles' adopted Tangiers. (3) -Tom Schulte

William Parker - Scrapbook
Thirsty Ear

William Parker has a wonderful and creative tendency to become part of unique and fascinating combos. That is his combos are not The William Parker Experience, but Parker part of a new and fascinating thing. Here Hamid Drake (drums) and colorful violinist Billy Bang fuse into a kaleidoscope of sound. This violin trio features Parker sometimes in a supporting rhythm role and sometimes leading with a fractured and angular melody. The theme of this album is Parker's lifetime memories so that each track is a piece of autobiographical impressionism for Parker. (4.5) -Tom Schulte

Kittens for Christian - Privilege of your Company
Serjical Strike

If you like Birthday Part and early music from The Cure, you will appreciate the dark sounds of this retro gothic project. This is recommended if you like The Pixies and early albums from Wire. The doom-inflected repetition of lyrics and crude electronic rhythms with looping angular guitar all serves to give this that '80s gothic feel. (3) -Tom Schulte

African Head Charge - Shrunken Head
On-U Sound

Like a shrunken fits cranial content into a smaller area, so this collection fits a quarter century of African Head Charge into a single CD. This psycho-electric African-oid post-dub project is built around percussionist Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah. With a Lee Perry heart, this compendium includes such gems as "Far Away Chant". Featuring the vocals of Prince Far I this song, slowed to one-half speed, was the soundtrack to the torture scene in he David Lynch film Wild at Heart. -Tom Schulte

Climax Golden Twins - Session 9 OST

This is the soundtrack to one of the most psychologically thrilling movies I've ever seen. A movie that takes you through a dark, abandoned mental hospital, wreaked with asbestos and disturbing memories, and creeps you right out with much help from high quality visual cinematography and especially from the work of Climax Golden Twin's ambient sounds of horror. Much of the sounds are samples of manipulated echoes and textures creating a sea of atmospheric noise, until you're caught listening for something to happen and demented noises start jumping out at you. The haunting piano has it's own voice as well, recalling pivotal points of the movie's climax, or a scene where you're left thoughtless and entranced by the softly melodic sound. As a "non-visual version" of Session 9, the soundtrack carries a lot of extra material not used in the movie, though it can be enjoyed in the same way as watching it. -Stu

The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-la-la Band With Choir - "This Is Our Punk-Rock," Thee Rusted Satellites Gather + Sing

You're in for the long haul with this record. The four tracks are averaged 15 minutes long each, so that means an hour of colliding "dens layers of strings", "ragged repeating guitar figures" and "noise treatments" as the bio surgically spells out. Definitely an atmospheric work of politcal, spiritual and self proclaimed syle of punk rock music that picks up and drops off slowly. The base six members play strings, piano, bass, effects, guitar and are joined in by choral and percussion help by guests making up an oversized outfit. Not to be confused as some Polyphonic Spree sound-alike or rip-off, as this is their third release, the group shows a lot of effort in the orchestration of each song. It takes patience and concentration, though, to capture the beauty of each song. -Stu

Calibretto - Dead By Dawn
Standard Recording Company

A well deserved 7 song disc for any fan of out-of-the-ordinary, festive and deranged synth-rock. The first instrumental track jumps along like a foreign spy scene at the circus; it's a very scarey sight indeed as it leads into the next song which finds a continuation of the madness. The vocals that finally come along are of the slimey and sassy punk type that give a broader control to each song. Playing along comes a safe and standard synth pop song that the kids might like to nod their heads to, and then more of the wonderful russian style spy/circus music accompanied by chimes, bells, organ with a few clever sampled clips thrown in between songs. This disc is a suprisingly powerful listen and may just catch your attention. -Stu

Wax Mannequin - And Gun
Cincinnati Records

Opening with some sort of vintage sounding fantasy pop sample of harmonized 'oooh's and 'aaah's, this disc is an immediate eye opener. Right into the next track even, a mix of spacey pop, light acoustic guitar and the voice of a sympathetic god carry on the chorus of 'Papersnake' with varying harmonies and moods. An acclaimed 'Pied Piper', the sole performer Chris Adeney can be imagined in some tracks as a medieval mandolin player, lamenting solemnly as well as wittingly entertaining his stories. The folkish emphasis on his work can be heard clashing with artistic imagery and a higher consciousness, fleetingly catching the attention of its atmosphere as it compiles layers of uncomfortably catchy introspection. It's also amazing to hear the detailed composition of guitar work that twitters between words on each song, everywhere and nowhere as on 'Dustboy Rides the Train' it trails into powerful chords as bass and drums back along the streaming melodies of the chorus. Many of the works will not leave out the distinction of new wave synth and sampling inclusions, subtly adding modern and post-rock sounds. This disc is recommended for everyone who is willing to explore and figure out this outstanding new form, as enjoyable as it dementedly curious. -Stu

Ursa Minor - Silent Moving Picture
Smells Like Records

In a time when experimental music is about dramatic effect, Michelle Casillas experiments with subtlety and sounds unusual as they are understated on this song-oriented after-hours album gem. Much of the texture here derives from the juxtaposition of Casillas' gently rolling piano and Fender Rhodes organ against the low-lever but wildly distorted guitars of Tony Scherr (Sex Mob, Lounge Lizard, Bill Frisell). Another Lounge Lizard is one hard: cellist Jane Scarpantoni as well as other one-song appearances by Yuri Lemishev (accordion) and Chris Brown (clavinet). Another feature of this album is the group's take on the songs "Summertime Rolls" from Jane's Addiction. -Tom Schulte

Andrew Drury - A Momentary Lapse

Andrew Drury is the composer and drummer, behind this jazz quintet in every way. The music tends to be a frantic and perilous seesaw battle between violinist Eyvind Kang and the saxophones (Chris Speed and Briggan Kraus). Also figuring in prominently is Myra Melford in the piano. This avant-jazz supergroup is held to the grown by the bass playing of Mark Dresser. The instrumental, eruptive jazz pieces feature rock-like energy and attack. All this energy flows from a very hard-working acoustic ensemble. A Momentary Lapse is a significant and energetic recording that will appeal to fans of free jazz, Rock In Opposition, prog rock as well as creative music in general. -Tom Schulte

The Blood Brothers - Burn Piano Island, Burn
Artist Direct

They are calling this new generation of aggro "screamo" and The Blood Brothers is riding that wave for all it is worth. Already prolific, the group in 2003 has a five-title discography starting with the attention-getting 2001 release March on Electric Children. It is obvious from this output and the explosive, frenetic tracks of this album that the guys in this band are fill of energy. Two dedicated vocalists screaming and carrying on unfettered by even so much as maracas is the main weapon in the arsenal of The Blood Brothers. Old school fans of post-punk aggro will see this noisy group, which features a lot of swing in their clamorous grooves, as a cross between Laughing Hyenas and Alice Donut. This is a sophisticated, intelligent take on hardcore that should not go unnoticed. -Tom Schulte

Moreland Audio - Turbogold CD
54-40 or Fight!

Arising from the once active project, The Pirkinje Shift, comes another attempt of artistic and mind wandering instrumental rock. The members of Moreland Audio are heard well on this disc, and heard through their instruments only, creating madly curious moments and completing their task of telling an adventerously musical tale. The tracks are fallen apart and broken when it comes to continuity, which can leave little room for reflection, but only raises the dark intensity of an avid listener. Although an excellent performance of what can be done, the more I hear of these spook-rock bands I tend to regain the sense of a tiresome lack of simpler emotion. -Stu

The Appleseed Cast - Lost Songs
Deep Elm

The first track on this album had me a little confused, especially when it started to sound exactly like The Polyphonic Spree; a strange intro I thought, but always a nice sound. Following the horn ridden and atmospheric effects, the recognizable sound of this genuinely heartfelt emo band come to surface with the strength of simplicity paired with a passionate effort. The old sounds of a thorough and epic indie rock act, most comparable to Sunny Day Real Estate, are not lost in The Appleseed Cast and live on as each new sound they release is a rock solid piece of work. This new release is an amazing production that will, at the pique of this band's existence, yet again prove their dominance over their genre of music. -Stu

Xinlisupreme - Murder License
Fatcat Records

As a follow up EP to Tomorrow Never Comes, Murder License sees a more evil jubilance that rides this band's sounds into dark places. Once again, distortion is traded with serenity through the tracks that act as a soundtrack to a doomed and mystical land. Their ability to construct a pop sequence and then fling shit all over it is another interesting habit as heard on the track Count Down, as the digitalized happiness is grated through some awful machine and hangs dead with confusion afterwards. -Stu

Xinlisupreme - Tomorrow Never Comes
Fatcat Records

Balanced between overdriven distortion and fairytale sound effects, these Japanese folk have discovered a digital new way to distill mind from body. A creepy way to describe these things would be to see it as a suicidal Amon Tobin feel, with an influencing My Bloody Valentine holding the rope. Most of the poly-rhythmic beats and samples are maxed to contribute a crust of distortion over the affairs of each uniquely dark instrumental track, and while wandering and aimless, the songs are an experimental kick to conventionalism. -Stu

Head Hits Concrete - Hope, Fear and the Terror of Dreams
Intolerant Messiah

Unfettered malevolence, unrestrained violence launches of this densely packed 33 RPM 7". The Winnipeg grindcore band is a rare example of the extreme scene in the Great White North. Typical of the grindcore formula, these are short but brutal blasts of music allowing the group to pack five songs onto each side of the release. -Tom Schulte

Arab on Radar - The Stolen Singles

As in the final throes of so many great groups, AOR has uttered that phrases that says so much and so little: "irreconcilable differences." As a final chapter in their discography, The Stolen Singles pulls together early 7" and demo recordings from the across the band's seven-year life. Very ambitiously, the group sought to change the face of music. Though they did not do this, they did end up with a passionate indie art-rock group with an insistent, emergent sound of high-pitched rhythm guitar, grumbling bass and precise drumming set on andante automatic. -Tom Schulte

Dead Bodies Everywhere - Buy a Bullet, Rent a Gun
Intolerant Messiah

Brutal, extreme hardcore is the fare here. One vocalist is low and diabolical ala Cannibal Corpse. A second screamer is a high-pitched frantic demon. This group emerged out of the Bay Area "power violence" grindcore making it somewhat of a throwback to the apocalyptic machine gun bursts of the grindcore genre that had its heyday in the '80s. The contrasting vocal styles within the same song add texture to the album and help to keep the thing interesting and from being altogether derivative. This will mix well with your favorite bands on the Neurot label. -Tom Schulte

Satoko Fujii - Minerva

The never predictable Satoko Fujii this time presents music in a quartet setting. Drummer Tatsuya Yoshida comes from the avant-rock duo The Ruins. On Bass is Takeharu Hayakawa of jazz fusion project Doctor Umezu Band who has recorded with John Zorn. Together, these two make for a potent rhythm section with a distinct rock approach. This adds excitement to music as there is never a clear balance between this rhythm section and Fujii's piano improvisations. Constant collaborator and husband Natsuki Tamura is on hand for coloring comment with his trumpet. Minerva is a rich and exciting album of free jazz with an experimental rock basis. -Tom Schulte

5ive's Continuum Research Project - The Hemophiliac Dream
Tortuga Recordings

This CD EP is two tracks, an opus in parts. Part I is 24:02 and Part II 13:40. The drifting, atmospheric sounds are dark and gray moving from ambient noise recalling Caul or Drift and then to restrained noise-rock suggesting some instrumental Sonic Youth. The use of bright percussion like starry points in the dark collage and layers of sounds changing relatively briskly makes for a high degree of melodic content in this greatly de-constructed music. That is, there is much to cling to in though the river waters be dark and deep and the banks unseen as one progresses down this descending, Stygian journey of sonic malevolence. -Tom Schulte

Vermillion - Flattening Mountains and Creating Empires
Redwood Records

The second release from this Seattle based progressive post-rock band that I've heard has the essence of a harder and less pragmatic way of song writing since last I remember them. Having a more surfaced and upclose intensity on the opening 10 minute long track, I have to only be reminded of the instrumental energy that is heard from bands like Oxes to see where this all comes from, though Vermillion seems to contribute more of the artistic heart that suites these drawn-out instrumental stories. The second track is no less of an amazing tale that preludes with piano, strings and lightly uplifting sounds into a fantasy metal heaven. Yes, this IS as crazy as it sounds. The second to last song on this four track disc is entitled 1313101310137107 and to me describes to type of rhythm sequences that can be heard when this band plays with much of their sounds being uniquely signatured to fit such a musical technique. -Stu

Nap Attack - s/t

A rather homemade attempt to jump into to pool of the instrumental math-rock groups that are spreading into existence, Northern CA's Nap Attack have their formula down. Switching riffs and sequences every odd moment can get you somewhere in this type of genre, but they fall short in coming up with something emotional. The obscure note pairing and strongly flowing melodies are a good shot as well, but don't stand to much without a singer over top. A worthy attempt deserves this act some encouragement to keep at their art and to infuse it with a little bit of something human. -Stu

Daniel Carter + Reuben Radding - Luminescence
AUM Fidelity

Daniel Carter (Other Dimensions In Music, TEST) performs on alto sax with Reuben Radding (John Zorn, Marc Ribot, Elliott Sharp) on bowed bass in this understated disc of instrumental jazz. (The final track, "Occurrences, Places, Entities and The Sea", is a monster, though.) Daniel Carter is a master of his instrument, gently coaxing an impressive spectrum of tones from his horn. It is also a rare even to hear him hold himself to this sole member of the reed family. Carter has been a long-standing member of the improv jazz scene having worked with Sun Ra and from the '70s to today with William Parker. Radding comes to us more on the fast track having broken with punk rock to indulge in the sophisticated and extemporaneous. -Tom Schulte

Saint of Killers - s/t
Edgetone Records

Noise rock project Saint of Killers is about ominous crush tones with interludes of guitar noodling punctuated by episodes of blood-curdling screams. This uneven approach gives the music a creepy, unpredictable what's-behind-the-corner feel. Guest musician Matt Waters on saxophone wails cosmic freak-out jazz ratcheting up the tension on this album. -Tom Schulte

JP Saccomani / JLH Berthelot - Equilibre Thermique de l'Igloo en Phase de Fonte
Somewhere in Time

This collaboration between Jean-Pierre Saccomani and Jean-Luc H. Berthelot is an opus of surrealist electronica. The otherworldly headspace is cinematic impressions of asymptotes and metamorphosing rhinoceroses. Floating, disembodies synth drones provide tonal coloring to detached episodes of angular electronic sounds on this eerie album, full of texture. -Tom Schulte

Gordian Knot - Emergent
Laser Edge/Sensory

Bill Bruford gives the thunderous bottom end of some righteous percussion to this seven-member post-fusion prog rock group. Bruford is one of the core members of this group, and guests round out an array seven. One of those guests is Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett. The sound is fleshed out in the studio by co-producer Scott Burns, known for getting the big, angry sound for extreme metal. Leading the group in their instrumental forays is bass stick maestro Sean Malone. Some of the keyboard episodes get rather pretentious, but overall this is a solid record of both artistry and proficiency. -Tom Schulte

Kevin Kling - Wonderlure
East Side Digital

Kevin Kling is warm and weird storyteller like a cross between King Missile's John S. Hall and Garrison Keillor. Kling's comedic tales cover the motorcycle accident and the recovery that marked his 2002 as well as other personal experiences that Kling exploits to humorous and telling potential. "Demo Derby", "Marathon" and "Buying Art" are especially good. Go ahead and retell them to amaze and captivate your friends, just give Kling credit. All eight stories here were originally heard on National Public Radio. -Tom Schulte

Sound Tribe Sector 9 - Seasons 01

Sound Tribe Sector 9 is a source of mostly atmospheric, floating electronic compositions with a touch of jazz guitar and bass. Going beyond the merely utilitarian dance music possibilities this suggests, STS9 is sonic analgesic for the overtaxed mind. The group's full-spectrum ambient sound features intricate polyrhythms on the headphone side of acid jazz. This is a 2-CD set and a soundtrack for your inner space. -Tom Schulte

Cul de Sac - Death of the Sun
Strange Attractors Audio House

The title of Death of the Sun suggests the dusk that is but a rebirth of a new day. The album is also a somewhat new direction for the group as Jake Trussell joins in the creation of this album lending his talents in digital sampling and sequencing. The intent of the band is to merge fully with their music the sampled sounds. This succeeds wonderfully; giving us a gently delivered experimental rock nestled in a rocking cradle of looped samples. For instance, the opening track is built on a small piece of a 1933 78 recording of The Comedian Harmonists but is such an interwoven thread to the group's playing that this is nothing like a rock band lumbering along with a skipping shellac platter. This is an amazing if tranquil record that is the result of three years of sophisticated experimentation with sampling held to a high aesthetic standard. -Tom Schulte

Steffen Basho-Junghaus - Rivers and Bridges
Strange Attractors Audio House

Mention "experimental guitar" and the natural reaction is to think electric guitar. However, Basho-Junghaus is a rare bird in that he does his experimental guitar acoustically. His talent was alongside other such rare birds on Henry Kaiser's 156 Strings compilation (Cuneiform, 2002). Now we get an entire disc of his musings upon a Takoma Records style, ala John Fahey, Leo Kottke and Robbie Basho. There is an intricate and delicate interweaving of melody lines and an understated syncopation for rhythm. This subtle album exhales delicately an exquisite balance of artistry and technique. -Tom Schulte

Aoki Hunsinger Jarman - Trio
Melungeon Records

The three musicians that make up this trio draws upon the unsung strengths of the Chicago free-jazz scene. Tatsu Aoki on upright bass comes as a leader in Asian-American jazz. Also hear is Robbie Lynn Hunsinger, an orchestral oboist that plays also on Chinese and Asian Indian varieties of that instrument beside several other reeds. Joseph Jarman, co-founder of AACM and Art Ensemble, also plays a multitude of reed instruments. On this recording, he tends toward the instruments of the upper registers, like alto sax and flute. Jarman also provides what percussion there is: thumb piano and cymbals. So, the instrumental, acoustic jazz on this album is light and airy, most often only held to earth by Aoki's rhythms. The artists often introduce exotic, ethnic themes into the music. -Tom Schulte

Snog - Beyond the Valley of the Proles
Metropolis Records

This project of Australian DJ David Thrussell subtly and artfully undermines the commodification of culture and the commercial inclination instilled in us all. The glib anti-capitalism may not be overt enough for the casual listener, but that is the radical intent of this music, obvious when listening to the lyrics. Such thoughts as these so easily blend with the beats, that it is easy to not notice:

"Now I wouldn't want to advocate
Violence or bloodshed against the state
But if some fiendish criminal mind
Were to contemplate action of a similar kind
It's a Justifiable homicide"

Thrussell has a strong love of "spaghetti Western" movie music and this influence can be heard on his album, here on "Businessman" which also nods to Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love". Suitable for this Ennio Morricone-inspired substrate, Thrussell sings in a style imitative of Stan Ridgway. Like Relax into the Abyss, this album features the excellent, anti-commercial artwork of Chris Woods (http://www.dianefarrisgallery.com/artist/woods/). -Tom Schulte

Giddy Motors - Make it Pop
Fatcat Records

I'd have to agree with their bio when Giddy Motors mention their defiance of easy categorization, and as well with their name which I find would be a close description to their sound. Giddy, as in uncontrollably excited, reflecting the off-beat and eccentric style of angular punk influenced by classic jazz. The songs are a catastrophy of funk being mutilated by a post-punk mental illness that in the end it turns out to be artistically tasteful, if that is you're taken by the darker things in life. The loungy jazz structure of the songs has its counter-self alongside, apathetic with energy and distracting the listener with a blind message. Coming out of South London in 1999, the band managed to record this little beauty in Chicago with Steve Albini. -Stu

Rockets Red Glare - s/t
Sick Room Records

First hearing this band open for Do Make Say Think I was immediately impressed, so I managed to purchase a CD with a limited amout of funds promising Evan I'd review it for the zine. With 7 songs on this disc, each are an average of about 7 minutes long and are orchestrated without a dull moment. As a three peice, I was amazed with the fullness of their sound during their live set and equally satisfied with the outcome of this recording, as each song holds its own corelated instrumental strength. Like the songwritten equations of any talented group of musicians, each player has his own part at every instance and the sound dwells at the tip of your attention by creating a melody out of madness. Soft and loud are traded between time and rhythm, and nothing can be guessed at. The vocals have their time and place as well, unexpectedly hidden and revealed through the noise by shouts of undefineable anxiety, a wonderful spectacle that adds to the warmness of their performance. -Stu

Pi Equals Three - I Laughed>>>Everyone Stared

30 tracks are on this disc, ranging from 8 seconds long to 13 minutes, of hardcore sampling and experimental ambience twisting. Amateur in delivery, this record would make a hit in that dark industrial setting, creating a chaotic background to lose your warped senses in. Many of the sounds used are cleverly similar to a suspensful crescendo of a horror film scene and leave your imagination to make up its own terrors. -Stu

Frankie Sparo - Welcome Crummy Mystics
Constellation Records

A followup from the four-song Arena Hostile, Frankie Sparo has come out with a full-length creation of heavy beauty. Full and flowing landscapes of sounds are played along by way of strings, trumpets, electronic ambience and the sorrowful vocals of this man's songs. Capturing clues of classic rock and folk is not missed, while sounds have never been more full and digestable, from an act that was once much less as an acoustic solo, to this experimental wonderland of indie art-rock. Many more of the songs are simply an artistic and jazzy output of piano and whatnot, while Sparo continues the lament of his message. A very serious and fragile release, it is quite a refreshing discovery that would hold the power of tumbling any audience. -Stu

Kyds vs Columbus - EP

This is a great hardcore act coming out of Arizona. With intense, heavy, and screamy songs that last more than two minutes, this six piece band cites influences such as Botch, Fugazi, Neurosis and Helmet. Though they may not be up to par with the standards of their influences, as a young band it only gives them hope for improvement. To myself, they remind me a little too much of our Vancouver friends The Witness Protection Program, yet the Kyds vs Columbus have their own mix in these 5 songs that hold up the integrity of melodic influence to a brutal lashing. -Stu

Pottiffer's Penny
Pottiffer's Penny

The 2 tracks on this disc sent my way hold a variety of metal and rock influenced styles, from a progressive edge, to nu-metal stank and even a melodic black metal and Tool influenced sound. While being out there and closely mainstream, this band isn't too much of a bore and interestingly holds my favour. -Stu

Derek DePrator - Across the Country
Eleet Tapes

Frantic alt-blues solo artist Derek DePrator bookends this seven-song CD with his arrangements of folk-blues material: "Mr. Tom Hughie's Town/Gallow's Pole" and "Quit Yr. Low-Down Ways". In between are his unfettered romps through the Delta tradition. This is the first release of new material from Derek DePrator in three years. (In the meantime he was playing guitar for Cobra Verde.) The collection of live (soundboard) and four-track recordings is a raw and primitive preview to upcoming releases through Eleet Tapes. (3.5) -Tom Schulte

Lori Freedman - À un Moment Donné

Lori Freedman's clarinet soars and screams with seagull-like insistence on this solo album of avian improvisation from the soprano clarinet and sonorous answers from the deep, bass clarinet. Lori is a master of both instruments and needs no other assistance in creating a fascinating, instrumental album of interest to fans of free jazz. (4) -Tom Schulte

Pigface - Easy Listening...
Underground, Inc.

Martin Atkins continues to use Pigface as one of his many centers from which to push the envelope and sophistication of industrial rock. It is a testament to the success of this experiment in a musical collective that despite the increasing number and variety of musicians that pass through this group, that the albums continue to come with consistency and quality. Easy Listening... is a Who's Who of industrial rock each becoming a tile in the mosaic that is Pigface, a kaleidoscopic view of the possibilities in focused industrial music. (4.5) -Tom Schulte

King Missile III - The Psychopathology of Everyday Life
Instinct Records

Not suitable for radio airplay but outrageously funny, King Missile III's new album is more vulgar language and vivid, surrealist imagery spoken and screamed over punk and indie pop, as appropriate. John S. Hall's mostly spoken delivery of his bizarre imagery has carried various incarnations of King Missile through a cult-level fame since the late '80s. On this album, Hall levels his sights onto the establishment for gratuitous coverage of 9/11 ("JLH") and an obscenity-laden send-up (send-down?) to President Bush ("The President"). These musings are interlaced with a series of five Pain Poems. Each begins and ends with "ow" as the bookends to a string of four-letter words. (4) -Tom Schulte

Frith, Derome, Tanguay, Boisen - All is Bright, but it is not Day

In the performing trio, Fred Frith plays guitars; Jean Derome is on reeds instruments and more and Pierre Tanguay provides the percussion. The trio extemporaneously creates sound experiments which are so artfully used by recording and mixing engineer Myles Boisen that he is credited as a fourth member. Using real-time processing, this album is a string of sparse and languid improvisations where episodes of sound appear on the horizon to grow in clarity as they draw near only to receded making room for the next site on this post-psychedelic journey. (4.5) -Tom Schulte

Bob Log III - Log Bomb
Epitaph/Fat Pussum

The title of the newest Bob Log III album does not break the trend of albums named after modes of transportation. As Bob explains, "I am now the vehicle." Bob Log III is the vehicle for a hedonist parade of lurid celebration with such closed-door party anthems as "Boob Scotch" (instructive photos provided), "Bubble Strut", "Drunk Stripper" and "F*Hole Parade". Bob Log III's interpretation of juke joint sounds is through his one-man band approach of slide guitar and kick drum on one foot and cymbal on the other. Loose and raw, this sound incarnates the sounds of Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf with a real visitation of the spirit of those raucous roadhouse blues suitable for fans of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Speedball Baby. (4.5) -Tom Schulte

Arcana - Inner Pale Sun
Cold Meat Industry

While it appeared The Last Embrace, released over two years before Inner Pale Sun, was to be the final chapter in Arcana, which proves to not be the case. Peter Pettersson's new album still features the neo-Gothic tone coloring, ethereal voices and rumbling drums for an effect like Dead Can Dance. This is the romantic edge of darkwave, eerie and mysterious but at the same time nostalgic, gentle and melodic. (3.5) -Tom Schulte

Soulo - Man, the Manipulator
Plug Research

Soulo is to pop music as the Dali's melting watches are to timepiece accessories. Soulo melds in swaying beats, gentle female vocals and bright electro ornamentation into a rich and warm (warm from the often analogue elements) canvas of grooves and melodies akin to trip-hop and such modern dream pop as Sigur Rós. (4) -Tom Schulte

Joboj - X
Quad Records

Joboj (Joe Bochar) presents the listener with a dizzying blend of guitar pyrotechnics, programming and more with Bochar performing all instruments in these fearsome Frankensteins. This home studio creation features crazy guitar antics ("Stool", "Screaming Chicken"), acoustic interludes ("Blackthumb", "Bitch") and more so that each track is aimed at entertaining rather than merely shredding. (4) -Tom Schulte

Primitive Painter - Armadillo in the Snow EP
Dead Digital

This is an album of "listening techno" not bereft of the utilitarian beat repetitions necessary for the dance floors, as on the title track. On "Mantra", like the soundtrack to a horror film, the instrumental track is the icy tingle of very trebly sounds sparkling gently over urgent, horizontally motive rushed beats. "The Peoples Parasite" is another chilling work, this time an innocent, child-like melody xylophone-like under the words of a politician (Tony Blair?) with New World-like rhetoric. (3.5) -Tom Schulte

Circle - Raunio
Squealer Music

Arising from the Pori, a Finnish port on the Baltic Sea, Circle brings to mind the remote and frigid Arctic Circle both in name and in the minimalistic and hypnotic rhythms. They augment their sonic repetitions with hymn-like chanting (more sinister than spiritual) in "incantations" written in a their made-up language of Meronian. Just before this release the group did a John Peel session, sure sign they are at the peak of their powers. This is actually a reissue of a release on the Ektro label out of Finland, now getting greater distribution through Surefire Distribution. A 12-minute bones track is included: "Raubonmix". The potent ensemble surges and recoils their music with alternating waves of tension and eerie serenity. (4.5) -Tom Schulte

Patrizia - Defiance

Soft, slow, indie-country rock with very poorly contrasted, authentic opera singing belting over the top. What the hell is this? -Stu

Andrew Squared - s/t EP
Toot Hand N' Ail Records

On this debut ep from Fun 100's lead guitarist, pop music gets explored and thoroughly groped. From the opening track to the burning dance fires of the untitled last track, my pelvis could not stop moving in and out and side to side. Obviously influenced by the greats of 80's new wave, hip hop and the modern resurgence of dance/pop/electronica, Roju really hits the musical "marc". The second release from the controversial Toot Hand 'n' Ail records will be an excellent addition to your collection as a music lover; and just to say, "I was there from the start". -Bullsheet

The Cassettes - s/t

I wasn’t very excited about this album upon the first few listens. I thought it sounded too bland and simple, but once I got into it, I really began to enjoy it. This low-fi pop rock doesn’t get tired after a couple of listens and despite its seemingly modest approach to pop music, there is a lot going on in the songs and are actually sometimes quite rockin’ in a subtle way. It was strange at first to hear Shelby Cinca’s vocals, softly and timidly singing, compared to the trebley screams of Frodus. The lyrics have a strange feel to them, childlike sometimes, usually sort of optimistic and dreamlike. I don’t know what inspired the lyrical content, but it seemed sort of haunting. Overall this is a great debut album for the Cassettes, and I applaud them for making an unpretentious and highly enjoyable collection of songs. -Bullsheet

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Yanqui U.X.O.
Constellation Records

Godspeed You! Black Emperor have been a central part of my musical experiences in the last two years, and have greatly shaped the way I view music, culture, politics, and life. Their combination of searing melody and political dissension have been dually inspirational and enlightening, not to mention their militant commitment to the do-it-yourself ethic talked about by many but wholly embraced by few. Having said that, I am writing this review from an admittedly biased standpoint, as Godspeed could release a garage rock album and I’d at least give it a chance. Well…maybe not garage rock. Anyway, this epic full-length sees the band working outside their Montreal niche, as it was recorded in Chicago with indier-than-thou producer Steve Albini. Surprisingly, I didn’t think that Albini’s production complimented the work too greatly, but that’s probably because I’m used to the raw, analog sounds of the mighty Hotel2Tango, where all previous Godspeed and related projects were recorded. However, despite this minor imperfection, the album delivers with the same emotional intensity as can always be expected from the band, yet now added to the equation is a hint of technicality that is just beginning to surface. At the start of "Redeemer=Motherfucker," the guitar riff sounds almost like a heavy metal song. Wow, even the indies are jumping on this ironic-metal thing. Not. Anyway, this album is, like all Godspeed and Constellation releases, a worthy purchase, as it is completely separate from and untainted by the passionless over-commercialization of nearly all music being released today. -Josiah

Joy Electric - The Art and Craft of Popular Music
BEC Recordings

What can be said about this man that hasn’t been said before? If you’ve heard Joy Electric, you’ve probably already made up your mind about them. It’s the kinda thing that you either love or hate, or hate to love or love to hate. I myself have changed my mind about this synth pop outfit a few times, but have settled on a strange relationship based on cheesiness and dancing. I suppose Joy Electric is like a candy that you really love, but too much just makes you sick. And that seems to be the dangerous part of this two disc box set. The sheer quantity of pop music could kill a thousand crusty punks. I like this box set, but I have to admit that listening to both discs in a row can get tiring. It’s hard to take it seriously, especially after you look through the booklet and see the male model photos of Ronnie Martin "Blue Steeling" it up for the cameras. When you listen to his vocals and some of the lyrics, you get a mixed message: candy and fairies, sung by a voice that sounds deathly serious. Which leads you back to the beginning when you can’t tell whether to take this guy seriously or not. Because of the length of Ronnie’s career and the amount of material on this box set, you’re likely to find at least a few songs that you will like, but chances are you’ll hate a bunch of it too. So I think the general idea I’m trying to convey is that while the music is good and fun, it’s sometimes hard to understand what is going on with all of the pouting lips, candy canes and robots. Just tell me... should I take this seriously or not? -Bullsheet

Luna - Close Cover Before Striking
Jetset Records

Luna is quite good at writing spacey guitar pop songs with a country feel to them. At first it sounds like the combination wouldn’t work out that well, but they do a very good job of it. There is effective use of multiple effects pedal that adds interesting textures and sounds to the songs. The lead singers vocals have a laid back feel to them, but they do not come across as lazy or tired, and when backed by female vocals, tend to be the perfect touch to make a memorable chorus. The album ends with a cover of Neon Lights by Kraftwerk, which was a fitting ending because at some points you actually felt like you were listening to some early unheard bootleg of Kraftwerk jamming with a country band. -Bullsheet

Newfound Interest in Connecticut - Less is More or Less

This is a band that I enjoy, and they're emo. They play good, strong, interesting music and they even have a great singer. Not as authentic as classic originators of who were first given the term 'emo', but a hell of a lot closer than 90% of the bands today who's cheese-dog winy pop is being dubbed so. Newfound Interest impressed me when I saw them and on this disc with their components of heavy riffs, math-like rhythms and strong melodies that don't lose your attention. While still a young band and in need of polishing off, their trade is a commendable one that I could see growing towards a bright future. -Stu

Xiu Xiu - Chapel of the Chimes EP
Absolutely Kosher

The prime suspects of psychotic, new-wave, self-describing wonder have released this EP bravely. To publish such works as these, amounting experimental nonsense and beautifully creepy inventions of noise, this act proves their dominance of artistic integrity over succumbing to mainstream influence. The first four out of five tracks are slow and ambient crawlers, spacing random crashes and breathless drawn out sequences all accompanied by the soft, quivering and helplessly emotional voice of Jamie Stewart. Sounding homemade and invented, the instruments that bring this band's sounds, as well as the way they may use their ordinary ones, are awfully unique and make you imagine many odd things. Spanning from ethereal chaos to the noises of wet, metallic grime, it's nearly impossible to sit comfortably. The last song, Ceremony, is definitely a little more upbeat, sequencing a fast drumbeat and keyboards playing along in melody more like what was heard in their last album. A lot more noises coming together and the oddness as always of a genius mind, this is hopefully a taste of more to come with their upcoming release. -Stu

the pAper chAse - Hide the Kitchen Knives

Released last year, this is a continuation of insanity that is the pAper chAse. Since their last full length, which was then followed by the EP Ctrl-Alt-Del-U, the method of musical insertion that this band claims has been polished respectfully. The new sound strays from the unmentionable emotional din somewhat but turns toward more stable yet still mesmerizing concepts. With songs displaying forthrightness and pseudo-pop rhetoric, there are instances that have reminiscing moments of a Tom Waits influence and other moments reminding oneself of nothing at all. John Congleton's always experimenting collaberations have come to this, and becoming more keen on getting inside your head, this new album is accompanied by an easily addicting sound that can only be heard here. Look to the future for a pAper chase/xiu xiu split 7" to be released. -Stu

Zwan - Mary Star of the Sea
Warner Brothers

Billy Corgan. That's the big name around this band. The Smashing Pumpkins' lead man is continuing a great talent that he has in song writing. The 14 tracks on this album have an already signatured sound that lead to instances of repetition and post-rock chamber-fused bundles of staunch emotion, and have anything but any sign of amateur tampering as Corgan's ability succeeds his reputation. Trying not to let my personal comparisons to Our Lady Peace get in the way, I find myself enjoying the folk-like alternative ballads in an easy way as the melodies carry through. And as I mentioned, they have a repetition in their way that hypnotizes you into a lamenting and soulful spirit. It is a fascinating thing. -Stu

Frodus - Radio-Activity
Magic Bullet Records

A latest release from Frodus, the band that will never die. Radio-activity is a collection of three live recordings of the band's radio appearances from 1995 to 1998, an anticipated experience for any fan of the DC area mech-rock spazz gods. With songs from albums up to Conglomerate International, the band's presentation is accompanied with mega-phone transmissions and clairvoyant slogan lobbying while spreading their musical atmosphere with all-knowing and all-emotional voices. 21 tracks all around, there is much nostalgia to be had as the crowd's love is caught in the background and the band shows their appreciation through power. -Stu

Kind of Like Spitting - Bridges Worth Burning
Barsuk Recordss

First, let’s get some things straight. Death Cab For Cutie suck. I’ll admit, I used to be a fan of their ultra-whiny baby-blue indie rock tripe, and I’m quite ashamed. But, let’s face it, I used to be a fan of Our Lady Peace as well. Because Death Cab For Cutie suck, it can only be asserted that front-man Ben Gibbard sucks, and therefore his label, Barsuck Records, pretty much sucks as well. Now, unfortunately, I always thought that Kind of Like Spitting did not suck. I always had a place in my heart for Ben Barnett’s incredibly sappy romantic melodies – the merciless whining, the pathetically slow indie rock, his extensive toque wardrobe – I loved it all. Now, all of a sudden, something is different. Every song has drums, and tries to "rock" out. Even worse, Death Cab himself Ben Gibbard plays drums on the freaking thing. From the first song that attempts to have that new Dismemberment Plan pseudo-funk sound, to the wallowing mediocrity of the rest of the album, I found myself frustrated and utterly bored whenever I put this on. I don’t know what else to say. I really did like all of the Kind of Like Spitting I had heard until this point. I think this CD is trying to be something that it shouldn’t, and that Ben Barnett is trying to update their sound. To be fair, this is better than other things I have heard, but I know that KOLS are capable of much more, and I would recommend that you get into older releases instead of this. -Josiah

Revenge of the Egg People - Songs & Hymns of Glorious Praise
Stumble Records

Why? -Bullsheet

Various Artists - The New Breed
Velvet Blue Music

The fifth instalment of this collection of unsigned bands brings us a diverse collection of indie rock, new wave, lo fi hip hop, emo and art rock. There are two discs and 26 bands, (including FUN 100) plus my dad doesn’t like it so it can’t be all that bad. -Bullsheet

The Aluminum Group - Happyness
Wishing Tree Records

Is this an incarnation of the Pet Shop Boys? I certainly hope so. This is easy listening electronic pop made by two men with scores of contributors from across the indie rock world. Most of these songs could easily fit in the regular rotation at the local soft rock station, soothing all of the workers down when they begin to realize how crappy their lives are. So the purpose of this CD is to keep deranged middle aged worker bees from going postal on their whole office now that their spouse has left them, and their kid dropped out of school to play video games. And that is a very bold task, for which I commend them. Oh yeah, and I like it too, does this mean I’m 40? -Bullsheet

Canyon - Empty Rooms
Gern Blandsten

I wasn’t really inspired by this album. At times innovation and creativity poked its head through, but most of the time all I heard was cheesy pop rock with annoying vocals. Seriously, unless you are an amazing (and I mean amazing) song writer, you can never say "ohhhh, baby" in the first line of your song. I’m not kidding. Especially when you play slide guitar at the same time. Please don’t see this review as coming from a punk snob, I am a big fan of pop music, but this release just seemed a little too bland and routine to me. It was almost like I’d heard these songs before, but I didn’t even really like them then either. -Bullsheet

Carbon Based Lifeform / Lodus - Split
Miniature Records

Both Carbon Based Lifeform and Lodus create abrasive, but enjoyable electronica that sounds like it would fit in on a Brave New Waves playlist, or a Tigerbeat 6 sampler. Both are also comparable to DAT Politics, with cheesy and catchy keyboard riffs being played over or between bizarre sounds and samples. Sometimes fast and glitchy, sometimes slow and ambient. I was quite surprised with the quality of this low budget release. Oh yeah, the man behind Carbon Based Lifeform is also in House of Wires. Yeehaw! -Bullsheet

The Colemans - EP Teaser
Velvet Blue Music

So, the Colemans have been around for a while some time now and they’ve only put out two four song EPs, which could be classified as a crime against music. Maybe they just want to keep everybody wanting more, or maybe they’re just lazy, but apparently a full length will be available early 2003 and this is just a teaser. Anyway, if you’ve never heard the Colemans, they are a family band made up of ex-members of Pheado and fronted by Steph Coleman. They play infectious (I actually hate the word infectious because that’s how all those lame major label pop punk bands get described, but I have to use it in this case) new wave inspired, keyboard heavy garage rock. The four songs on this EP all make you wanna shake your money maker, and I really like Steph’s voice above the edgy guitars and keyboard. I heard this story about a guy who had a big crush on Steph and he finally got up all his courage to talk to her. So he walks up and says hi and she says hi back and he was so nervous that he pissed his pants! So he just turned around and ran off. Man, that would suck. But anyway, you don’t need to piss your pants to hear this EP, just go see them play or email Luke! -Bullsheet

Death by Chocolate - Zap the World
Jet Set Records

In the late 60's Disney scraped an almost completed movie staring Julie Andrews amid rumors that the writers and director in charge of the movie had been on large amounts of drugs through out the entire production. This is the soundtrack to that movie. Well, not exactly, but that’s what came to mind when I first listened to this amazing piece of work. It’s more like a psychedelic look at common life in Britain. The female singer lets us know personal information about herself throughout the entire album, such as her favorite shirt, her shopping list, her favorite car, and the fact that her "ice lolly just melted." The use of a wah wah pedal is superfluous but not annoying and the organ makes it sound pretty authentic. This is a very unique and refreshing album, one that I’m sure you will enjoy as well. -Bullsheet

Death From Above - Heads Up
Ache Records

This is an exciting release. A two piece consisting of bass and drums with the drummer singing, these guys kick out 6 jams that make up this unforgettable EP. Though many duos have been flooding the underground rock world lately, Death From Above still manages to make it hard to pin down or compare their sound. I feel like saying like if Lightning Bolt was a pop band, it would sound like this. A wall of sound, a healthy dose of speed, but still so catchy that you’ll be singing the songs until you put it back on. The use of vocoder is also a nice touch. The brief electronic interludes are helpful in the fact that you need a break after each track beats you up and takes your lunch money. There is no danger of this album getting boring anytime soon, and I’ve been listening to it constantly since it came in the mail. I’d have to say the crowning touch of this EP actually has to be "Dead Womb" the first cut. So fast, so abrasive but completely loveable, and the lyrics are about groupies and cocaine! What more could you ask for in life? But then when I saw them play a few days ago, they said the one of the girls the song was about was going out with somebody from Hot Hot Heat. They then proceeded to make fun of the fashion rockers, much to the delight of the crowd. But that reminds me of a story. My peeps were in Vancouver the other day and Bruce thought a guy walking in front of them looked a lot like Steve Bays, the lead singer of Hot Hot Heat. And when he vocalized his curiosity, it turned out it was Steve because he turned around and looked Bruce right in the eyes. Steve was a ways ahead of them and he stopped to say good bye to the girl he was walking with. He was just starting his good bye kiss when Jeff, one of the craziest people alive on this planet, interrupts them. "Major Label! Right On!" he said in a loud obnoxious voice to the enjoyment of the small Abbotsford delegation. Apparently Steve seemed a little perturbed. But back to Death from Above, anybody who values rock n roll will purchase this album, and that’s final. -Bullsheet

The Flaming Sideburns - Save Rock n Roll
Jet Set Records

Does the title of this album boast that the Flaming Sideburns are saving rock n roll, or does it merely mean that they agree with the general population that rock n roll needs help? It would be very bold of the Flaming Sideburns to say that they are indeed the saviors of rock n roll. They do have rock n roll down though. You can tell they are well read in the history of this bold genre, drawing from many classic influences and bringing them together fairly well. They’ll probably be grouped in with the whole garage band thing, what with their Hives like screams, 60's sounding organ and powerful distorted guitars. I never received a press release for these fine fellows, and I believed they were from Scandinavia, but wasn’t sure. So I traveled on over to the Jet Set Records website to find out that they were indeed from Scandinavia, but they were also made up of members the Hives and the Hellacopters and they were indeed claiming to save rock n roll. And while they sorta do sound like the amazing bands they are trying to replicate, I don’t think they are memorable as Iggy or the Sonics ever were. -Bullsheet

Hot Hot Heat - Make Up the Breakdown
Sub Pop

It's strange to think that a year ago Hot Hot Heat was just another local scene band, although one of the more popular ones, I doubt anybody would have imagined the size they’ve ballooned to in such a short time. Now household names, the band faces a lot of criticism from the scene that spawned it. Are they just trying to get laid? Well, if they are its working. But anyways, their album reminds me of an album from the 80's, not so much for its dancy keyboard anthems, but more because I don’t think I like every single track off of any album I’ve heard from the 80's. No matter how much I like the band or the album there is always at least one cut that rubs me the wrong way. The opening track on Make Up The Breakdown annoys me to no end. I can’t stand his voice, the "I wanna get laid meter" is in the red for that one. It’s always unusually high, but I can usually handle it in proportion to the disco-punkness . It’s like if Gang of Four was more to the point and just wrote catchy songs. Bandages, although a good song, is not the best on the album and I wonder why they chose that one for radio (over)play. The album ends on a sad note with a poor attempt at an epic or something of the sort. Bleh, it would have been better if they’d left it off. So over all, I am happy with this album, it satisfies my nu-wave cravings, all except for a couple duds. -Bullsheet

Lights For Nero - Dying to Shed Light on the Narrow Path of the Anathema Heist
The Hearken

I like how the current fad for power violence bands is to have song titles that take about as long to read as it takes to listen to the song. Lights for Nero have 8 tracks on this CD, which seem to alternate at first between power violence and instrumentals in various genres, then they hit you with some of their best stuff, jazz violence, using horns to further intensify the chaos of their short and blistering songs. This is very well done for such a new band, never becoming predictable or boring and ranging from easy listening to ear grinding. They are quite involving for such a loud band and one I would like to hear more of. -Bullsheet

Witness Protection Program - Baam! Jam!
Teenage Rampage

The release of the new EP from the WPP finds more post hardcore leanings but with the same amount of frenzy and intensity. I’m still amazed at the three part screaming/singing that they are so good at, and I wonder how they can always manage to have a part in every song where you can’t but help but sing along and rock out. Seriously, if you don’t feel like rockin out to the WPP you must be over 30, dead, or a neutered goldfish. Even deaf people would like this. Do I have to tell you one more time how good the WPP is? -Bullsheet

The Black Sea - s/t

The Frodi is back, two-thirds of it anyway, and has teamed up with Fugazi's Joe Lally to release an EP of their new project known as The Black Sea. With Shelby Cinca on vocals and guitar, Jason Hamacher on percussions and Joe Lally on bass, this team has a high potential of musical genius which shows itself in teasing ways on this release. Though the first track's riffs seem somewhat stripped from a lost Pearl Jam song, the sounds of the future are back in stance. With players in tight coordination and orchestrated musical coreography, the more reflective and less chaotic sound is a level progression from past outfits these musicians have played parts in. What also plays a huge part on this disc is the developing atmosphere of stark moods and smouldering recollection that seeps into the mind. Though the singing is softly spooky, the off-key presentation is in my view in need of developement before this band would ultimately bedazzle me. But with a full-length release out later this year, the masses should be more than excited. -Stu

Sixty Stories - Anthem Red
Smallman records

Receiving this album more than a few months back, I've only recently sat down to pen its review. Already having plenty of play in the CD player, I've had some time to grow attached to this solid rock playing Canadian indie act. Still having hard times, though, making out whether the vocals are male or female led, it at least adds to a complex uniqueness that the two-thirds female made band has in their singing. Amidst the pop-ridden energetic and emotionally enduring numbers are words that mean more than nothing. I don't read into lyrics too often unless something catches my ear. The first song is called Countdown. It's probably the most catchy song on the CD…that's a good thing for the band because it actually got me hooked in to listening to the rest of the album in it's entirety. The lyrics of Countdown are easy to swallow, after all it's about a girl that goes to the zoo or something. I'm sure it has some sort of alternate meaning to its creator, but nothing I really took to heart. I listened on. The next four songs are what I'd have to call a harsh reality. Songs about eating disorders. With lyrics about a girl not wanting to eat because her brother says her ass is fat as well as the line: "I'll never let go of those scenes of a body bursting…then still." Created were horrible mental pictures in my mind…almost unforgettable. The rest of the CD (the last five songs) are more along the lines of Countdown…they basically ease the pain of the previous 4 disturbing, yet still upbeat-rock filled songs. -Stu

Stef Loy - Lamentations of Ecstasy
Hobsond Rd. Records

Lamentations! Ecstasy! What a wonderfully paradox of an artistic title! What powerful intelligence it displays! Yes, aside from the monstrous decade-old memories that the music stirs (which we'll come to in a moment), this disc is packed full of cliché moments and expiring metaphors. At first the listen was bearable, but down the list there were all too many "Save me Jeebus" moments that did it for me. I'm not against their views, but when it comes my way I liken to stray from hyperbolas confessions. Now the sound. From early nineties soft-metal vocalizing, ala Bon Jovi, to the low murmuring gadgetry reminiscent of the sounds of Tricky, there is much that they seem to cover, but in case your starting to interest your eclectic tastes the majority is stuck to the former. One lamentation of ecstasy that tickles my cheese fancy is the song "Snow White". It's ethereal synth backbone soothes the over produced drum machine and electronic piano while Bon Jovi, I mean Stef Loy, displays the high end vocal habits at the end of every second line. -Stu

Sprawl - Sarah Veladora

Here comes another band out of the crowd, sickly nostalgic over the sounds of the past and hoping to bring a spark back into modern and commercialized industry. While this may be seen on every second page of the indie scene these days, Sprawl has actually been able to pull something decent together since their 1996 formation in Toronto. The songs are strong and full of fun, but still nothing much past would I could effortlessly enjoy outside of a bar. That's not a bad thing though, if playing those sorts of venues is their moment's passion, but looking to a less played-over future and competing with original and artistically inspiring song play could make things interesting. Not everyone's into that though, and Sprawl, even claiming their post-punk roots, doesn't seem to be either. -Stu

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