Bruford, Levin - B.L.U.E.
Cardiovascular Sub-Hypothermia - Pulmonary Descent
Catie Curtis - Catie Curtis
Cryogenic - Suspended Animation
Diamond-Fist Werny - Enchanted Parkway
Fear Factory - Obsolete
Haujobb - Less
Ice Cube - War and Peace
Kid Capri - Soundtrack to the Streets
Money Mark - Push the Button
Andrea Parker - Kiss My ARP
Pearl Jam - Christmas 1998 Fan Club 7"
Pitchshifter - "Genius" (12" City of Angels remixes)
Portishead - Roseland NYC Live
Rorschach Test - Unclean
Scarnella - Scarnella
Talvin Singh - OK
Swingin' Utters - Five Lessons Learned
Zero Flip Side - Temperal Zone



[ b.l.u.e. ]
Bruford, Levin
Bruford Levin Upper Extremities
Papa Bear Records

Links:
Bill Bruford
Tony Levin
David Torn
Chris Botti

Since 1981's Discipline, Bill Bruford and Tony Levin have provided at least half of King Crimson's rhythm section (adding another drummer and stick/bassist in 1994). They have played on each other's solo albums, and with a stunning variety of other musicians: Levin with John Lennon, Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel, Alice Cooper and seemingly countless others; Bruford in Yes (including many of its offshoot projects) and with Genesis, U.K., Earthworks and more. Enlisting the impressive trumpet skills of Chris Botti, and David Torn's diverse guitar stylings, atmospheric loops and "big vile winged things," they have created an album unlike anything ever heard. It has been seen, though...in dreams and visions.

The first song, "Cerulean Sea," transports me to a rubbled plain: distant oil rigs squeal, occasionally belching into the dark sky; unimaginable machinery thrums the ground beneath my feet; the drumming of the geiger counter becomes more insistent in its warning of approaching dangers invisible to the naked eye. "Original Sin" captures the sound of the street wafting through the open window as you listen to your favorite jazz record. "Etude Revisited" provides each intrument a voice in dinner conversation, voices which wax and wane and change partners as the discussion warrants. Lost in longing, "Deeper Blue" gradually claims all the players in a blue so deep it is painfully beautiful. Others try to help build the house of cards higher in "Cobalt Canyons" but only serve to further the instability until it finally collapses about your feet. Every track on B.L.U.E. is a scene, and the album becomes the soundtrack to the film it creates within your mind.

Truly an amazing album.

-Paul Goracke
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[ cardivascular sub-hypothermia - pulmonary descent ]
Cardiovascular Sub-Hypothermia
Pulmonary Descent
(4 song demo cassette)
order from Relapse

Links:
Cardiovascular Sub-Hypothermia

Heidy Ho! A Florida band that's playing rather grindish Godflesh-influenced Industrial Metal tinged with a nice selection of found noises and movie samples--it's a dream come true! The demo has only four songs ("Ice Wound," "Innocent Whore," "Self Loss," and "World's Apart"), but all are nonmainstream, unconventional and heavy. Musically it's like a cross between a mucho-faster Streetcleaner-era Godflesh with the grinding vocals of Avulsed, the weird samples of Candiru, and perhaps toss in a dash of Extreme Noise Terror. Somebody better sign this band before they are huge and everyone is pissed because they missed them. And if they play in Orlando, I want notification, I'll be there. These guys are the future, do not miss them. Words cannot describe my joy (and pride) in finally finding a Florida band (other than The Eat and Roach Motel) that's worth a damn! God (or fill in deity of your choice) bless these wonderful young musicians and protect them from greedy, nasty companies who only want to rape their music for profit. And someone get them a @%*!#^*@ contract!

-Swade
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[ catie curtis - catie curtis ]
Catie Curtis
Catie Curtis
Guardian Records

Links:
Catie Curtis

In the realm of music there always seems to be time for all things: glam rock, grunge, guitar rock...you name it, it's had its day. Now, apparently, it is the time of what was once called "women's music." Of course, that term is outdated and certainly outmoded by the time of the late '90s. It is only natural that those who were marginalized have come to the forefront of music. Such is the case of women singer/songwriters.

It has been a very long time since anyone hailed from the state of Maine and was proud of it, far less be a songwriter. Catie Curtis is a perfect reminder of why New England was the birthplace of this nation and its culture. She has the poetry, feeling and finesse of those pioneers who lead the world down the pathways of folksingers. She can translate her feelings and thoughts into personable anthems. She touches the heart of the most jaded musicians, whether they be at the Newport Folk festival, Lilith Fair or Telluride.

Her latest self-titled recording is a tour de force, aptly showcasing her ability to turn a simple phrase into something you'll remember for the rest of your days. Musically, her simplicity does not belie her talent--this is not the genre for alienating virtuosity--but underscores the feelings and sentiments that are in one's heart and gives them wings. Produced by the E Street Band's Roy Bittan (keyboards, as well) and backed by a host of musical MVPs (like bassist Tony Levin, drummer Kenny Aronoff, mandolinist Jimmy Ryan, and backing vox by Sharon Celani), this album is a tribute to all of her predecessors as well as a lesson to those who should follow.

If she's not storytelling ("Larry," "I Don't Cry Anymore") or wondering ("Do Unto Others," "Forgiveness") or entreating love ("Soulfully," "Falling Silent in the Dark"), she's winding her way into your heart and CD collection. And by now, we know that we could use a fresh folk goddess to displace some of those trite Grammy nominees.

-Bruce Gordon
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[ cryogenic - suspended animation ]
Cryogenic
Suspended Animation
Warhead/Repulse Records
Ever find a cd with fantastic cover art that sounds real good inside? Nope. Well if Industrial Metal is your cup of tea, now you have. First off, discount the first song "One Minute Hit;" it's just plain old base death metal, nothing new (but played well). From the second song "Mind Over Soul" through to the final song "Bring It On," this cd burns with ambitious, seething, lurching, churning, destructive, incredibly precise power metal topped off with a thoroughly dangerous death metal-style vocalist (Darren Maloney). The rhythm section (Anthony Henning on bass and Darren Jenkins on drums) generates so much power in each song that you only hope that your speakers can contain them. Definitely dangerous to play in the car as the gas pedal tends to match their rhythm. Cryogenic are in the upper echelon of Industrial Metal, they manage to play harder and heavier than Meshuggah, faster than Machine Head, and have more hooks than Fear Factory.

"Mind Over Soul" speeds along like a chugging train on its way to the apocalypse, there is one brief breather section in the song before it launches on its way again. Nothing but martial beats pounding faster and faster. "Severed" blows away 99% of the musicrap played on the radios of North America. It picks up the same speed as "Mind Over Soul" and adds harmonic passages and just is pure adrenaline. Let's put it this way, if Beavis and Butthead bobbed along to this song, they'd have neck replacement surgery within seconds...and would be thrilled about it. "Junc" starts with a mournful noise before tearing up the same industrial metal ground as its predecessors. It has a little bit of a groove to it that sets it apart from the other songs along with a killer guitar solo and lovely bits of found noises, and seems to have a Skin Chamber influence that truly pleases me. "Death Becomes You" switches between power groove metal and industrial metal throughout the song, it is consistently hard and heavy. Surely this song is not influenced by the Streep/Roseanne movie? "Mary Belle" has a strong martial beat that courses through the song, they weave tortured werewolf vocals and guitar riffs around this twisted martial beat. "Destructive Minds" kicks off with an eerie bad-ass guitar riff (Steve Essa must collect riffs) and is filled with vocal pyrotechnics that should earn Mr. Maloney high points from death metal fiends. Suffice to say that "Destructive Minds" rocks heavy and hard while adding a few new tricks to the Cryogenic backlog. "Numerical Superiority" rocks slower but just as heavy with Essa's twisted guitar solos and Maloney's growling as the predominant factors. "Bring It On" continues in the slow and heavy beat with a little distortion and Maloney calling cowards out. If we were doing the best of 1998 now, this would top the list. I'll be jumping up and down with anticipation for their next release.

-Swade
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[ diamond-fist werny - enchanted parkway ]
Diamond-Fist Werny
Enchanted Parkway
Rudy Records

Links:
Diamond-First Werny

For their second album, Diamond-Fist Werny has toned down the guitar, added producer Kevin Tone on bass and samples, and turned to more of an electronic sound. At times, it is difficult to clearly determine whether a sound is created by bass, sample, woodwind or even voice. But the origin is not the important part; the end result is. Here the digital and analog merge, blend and catalyze the sounds into something different, something even more unique than the band already was.

Despite the pervasive electronics, the songs are very organic. They are not structured into verse/chorus/verse blocks, but ebb and flow as naturally as the tide and its varying waves. By sampling, looping and transposing his vocals, Todd Werny is able to harmonize with himself or sing rounds of many layers, creating many textures and moods. The lyrics exhibit the logic of dreams, retaining their shape but not necessarily their meaning throughout a song.

"Fountain Head" soars and uplifts--each time Werny sings "here comes the sunlight," I actually feel the sun rising a bit more above the horizon. The title track begins with a funk-ay electronic drum beat, shortly joined by a tight guitar counter-rhythm to distract you while layers are added to the underlying groove, subliminally commanding your body to join in. "Golden" is the first song on the album not fundamentally driven by Tim Soba's drumming--deferring to Werny's guitar, finally strummed in unmuted chords. But it's Alex Mundi's clarion reed which escalates the spirit.

The strongest display of Mundi's bass clarinet drone is found in "Plato's Cave," the most energetic song and my favorite--just barely eclipsing "Enchanted Parkway." Their upbeat cover of "Planet Claire" puts the B-52's on dharma (no, not the insipid sitcom). The only misfire on the album comes as "Shining Moment," the final track, which feels lethargic and forcibly restrained rather than the tender yearning it could have been. My strongest wish, though, is that the album were more than six songs and 27 minutes; not because I don't feel it's worthwhile as is, but for the purely selfish reason that I just want more of it.

-Paul Goracke
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[ fear factory - obsolete ]
Fear Factory
Obsolete
Road Runner

Links:
Fear Factory

Fear Factory comes out full-throttle towards your throat on Obsolete with their thundering guitars, non-stop drumming, and vocals and harmonies. Pounding you with a very clean and gigantic sound, Fear Factory, the leaders in the technical metal scene, continue on the path they have chosen, along with the help of Rhys Fulber with keyboards, production and engineering. This time out with the theme of, "The end of the world/human-kind," one sees them maturing into a well polished organism.

This is a good release, but not a great one. Maturity can be a good or bad thing. For their last cd, Demanufacture, Fear Factory is credited with keyboard concepts, but here they are performed by Fulber--and they sound cheesy. The song "Edgecrusher" has technical scratching by DJ Zodak, which takes more away from the song than adds to it. Burton C. Bell's vocals on most songs tends to come across sounding as monotone Catholic incantations sung in a vacuum. Die hard Fear Factory fans will enjoy this release, but for me, I like a less clean, a more dirty sound.

-Steve Weatherholt
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[ haujobb - less ]
Haujobb
"Less" (CDS)
Metropolis Records

Links:
Haujobb - The Official Mindbase

eight out of ten

I caught my girlfriend humming this one the other day. And granted…I have been playing the hell out of "Less," the new single by Haujobb, but she generally dislikes anything with even the slightest hint of industrialism.

Which leads me to this. Haujobb never stop changing and reinventing what they are about or the way they sound. But as much as Haujobb change, they stay the same.

"Less" features the trademark densely layered Swiss precision rhythm and programming present on each Haujobb recording. It's very similar in execution to "Solutions for a Small Planet," which is a genius blend of industrial darkwave and drum & bass ambience.

Enter Vanessa Briggs, the vocalist on "Less." She brings to Haujobb a soothing resonance that only a female could. Dashing between Myer's and Samardzic's electronic cascade is a vocal style as smooth and innocent as a newborn. And the lyrics are equally provocative as she croons, "How much more time can we waste, assume it all could be erased."

Haujobb fans fear not, this new sound and direction is quite convincing. You could easily dismiss it as an effort to ride the coattails of Delerium's Eastern-tinged trip-hop dreamy female vocal idea. But that would be an oversimplification. "Less" is a beautiful song, an exercise in minimalism that shows the innovation and maturity of this band. And at the heart of it, that thing that has always set Haujobb well apart is still intact. This said, and assuming that this is what Haujobb are up to now, I will miss dearly the more traditionally industrial stride that has kept me in awe for years.

The single contains three remixes of the song, and surprisingly enough, each one is just different enough to avoid the repetition of hearing the same song again and again. The package design is brilliant as well, and gets bonus points for the use of metallic ink.

"Less" has me waiting with bated breath for the full-length release. The new sound is just like Haujobb always has been, and nothing at all like they were.

-Jeff Ashley
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[ ice cube - war and peace ]
Ice Cube
War and Peace, Vol. 1 (War Disc)
Priority Records

Links:
Ice Cube

Ice Cube's well of creativity may have finally run dry. With the release of his first solo album in five years, War and Peace-Vol. 1 (War Disc), Cube attempts to regain his status as Hip Hop's premiere gansta rap artist. But instead of sounding like the angry young man from South Central Los Angeles of NWA fame, who as a solo artist gave us such hip hop classic LP's as Amerikkka's Most Wanted and Death Certificate, he comes across sounding more like some poorly conceived Hollywood creation, not a real street soldier.

The musical production on this album is tight; it's the content and delivery of his street poetry that will leave you feeling empty inside. Sure, there are moments when the old Cube shows up, tracks like "Pushin' Weight," "War and Peace," and "Ghetto Vet." But more often than not Cube's narrative comes across as hollow, the anger sounds rehearsed, and the genuine vibe, something that has always made his work standout from the crowd, is gone. Songs like "Cash Over Ass," "Limos, Demos & Bimbos," and "Dr. Frankenstein" are prime examples of this fall from grace. Once considered the king of Gangsta rap, he is now merely a member of its court.

Ice Cube's War and Peace serves up little hope for the success of Peace to come.

-Cecil Beatty-Yasutake
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[ kid capri - soundtrack to the streets ]
Kid Capri
Soundtrack to the Streets
Sony Music

Links:
Sony's Kid Capri site
Kid Capri

Kid Capri's latest release, Soundtrack to the Streets, takes listeners on an East Coast-flavored ride through the land of hip hop. The potholes encountered along the way, though, make for a real up and down ride.

Capri is a longtime fixture of the East Coast hip hop scene and one of its most prominent DJ stars. Hailing from the Bronx, New York, the Kid rose to his current level of success through his mix tapes, radio show and TV appearances (as the DJ on Def Comedy Jam). On Soundtrack to the Street the Kid takes a stab at producing in an attempt to take his career (successfully) to that next level. The CD features an all-star cast of MC's including Snoop Dogg, Slick Rick, Nas, Foxy Brown, Jay Z, Big Pun and KRS-One, to name a few. With such a cast you would think success was in the bag. Ah, but gentle readers remember this, just because a DJ can rock a pair of 1200's, or cut, scratch, and mix 90 minutes of your favorite songs together on tape, doesn't mean he can put together a hit record.

The music from track to track on this compilation is terribly inconsistent. Songs that should stand out like "Like Do or Die," featuring KRS-One, or the title track by Nas are forgettable thanks to the poor production the artist must rap over, while songs like "One and One" a track featuring Rass Kass & Punchline had me hitting the replay button so damn much I nearly broke my CD player. Other selections worth checking out are "Like That" featuring Jay-Z, and "Unify" featuring Snoop Dogg and Slick Rick. Overall this CD just didn't do it for me but one or two cuts may appear on my next mix tape.

-Cecil Beatty-Yasutake
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[ money mark - push the button
Money Mark
Push The Button
Mo Wax Records

Links:
Money Mark

nine out of ten

Sit back, take off your shoes, and just listen. And don't worry about turning the bass up, Push the Button has a surplus. All analog baby!

It's hard to imagine not liking this record. After all, Money Mark (aka Mark Ramos-Nisita) helped the Beastie Boys mold their now legendary sound. And everyone knows what a fun-lovin' bunch of funked out freakshows those three are.

Mark's first record, Keyboard Repair, was a gameshowish '70s porn music collage of sorts. "Push the Button" has a much more mature singer/songwriter drive with the same wacky low-tech feel as Keyboard Repair.

The albums title track and opener "Push the Button" gets a '90s update and makes me think that this is what porno music should sound like now. Throughout Mark darts between minimalist hiphop, Latin groove, alterna-rock singalong and it all works like a charm.

Mark has become quite a lyricist since last we heard from him. "Rock in the Rain" is so emotional it damn near brought me to tears. Songs like "To Like You," "Monkey Dot," "Tomorrow Will Be Like Today," and "I Don't Know How to Play Piano" take you to the more serious side of Ween, or even The Beatles and Elvis Costello.

Its fun lovin' introspective nature will make you smile and hum along for days. This one gonna get played a lot this summer.

-Jeff Ashley
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[ andrea parker - kiss my arp ]
Andrea Parker
Kiss My ARP
Toy's Factory (Japan)

Links:
Andrea Parker Unofficial site
Andrea Parker at Mo Wax

One of the first things I wanted to get my hands on after picking up a turntable a few months back was Andrea Parker's stuff. Her DJ Kicks album came out while I was in Paris and that tasty collection eased the long plane flight back to Seattle. But it wasn't her stuff. It was stuff she liked, records she had remixed; but the beats and the sounds weren't entirely hers. The album only sharpened my appetite. So, one of the first pieces of vinyl I bought was her Ballbreaker 10". Two tracks--"Ballbreaker" and "Some Other Level"--and they were heady dark stuff. Beats with huge spaces between them, echoes of sound which seemed like recoils from those same beats up front. A texture of darkness which seemed to hover over the insistent rhythms.

Now, I was ravenous.

I got Kiss My ARP two days before my Top Ten list from last year was due. Hardly fair, I thought. Hardly fair to have something so eagerly awaited arrive so late in the year. And that even scarier thought: it wasn't going to live up to my expectations. With some trepidation, I put it on. By the third track, I was sending an email to my editor, demanding a chance to get a postscript on my Top Ten. This album had to be included. [unfortunately, mark forgot to wrap his request around a cold beer. --ed.]

I'm tempted to quote myself, but realize that'll get me stoned in the street, so instead I will go for elucidation. Ms. Parker draws together all that is good about this realm of "electronica," takes it into a dark room and shakes the hell out of it. Like a precipitate in a centrifuge, the solid, heavy stuff is easily drawn off the bottom and the fluff can be discarded. The tracks of Kiss My ARP are layered thus: thick, viscous breakbeats rising around spiraling melodies, topped off with orchestral flourishes (cellos, even!) and occasionally Parker's voice. "Some Other Level" is here again with vocals. It is hard to make a great track better, but she manages.

"One day you will find/Answers of a different kind." The cryptology here at work is that over the last few years, Andrea Parker has honed her skills doing remix work while crafting the occasional song. She hasn't been in a rush to reveal herself, instead giving us hints and teasing glimpses with the dark undertones she has added to folks like Depeche Mode and Ryuichi Sakamoto and the Orb. We have been made to wait for her arrival and the anticipation was not wasted. Andrea Parker delivers stunningly with Kiss My ARP.

-Mark Teppo
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[ pearl jam - christmas 1999 fan club 7
Pearl Jam
Christmas 1998 Fan Club 7"
Sony Music

Links:
Five Horizons

One of the things I like about Pearl Jam's fan club singles is that you get an opportunity to hear what music the band finds interesting without any of the Alterna woe-is-me pomp and swagger they have become known for. Among others, 1995's double 7" with their versions of "Sonic Reducer" and a hilarious "My Way" performed live in Las Vegas by Ed and Elvis' cousin Terry Presley; and 1996's witty tongue-in-cheek "Olympic Platinum." This year's Christmas single contains live versions of "Soldier of Love" by Arthur Alexander and "Last Kiss" by J. Frank Wilson. According to the liner notes, the former song was introduced to the band by Thee Headcoats. A catchy early '60s garage ditty, "Soldier Of Love" has a nice little swing as it romps over a young man's quest for love. "Lay down your arms, and surrender to me / Use your arms to hold me tight, baby I don't want to fight a war." The flip side, "Last Kiss," is a tale of love lost on a dark and stormy night. While Vedder's voice can make even the most mundane song sound appealing, he is hard pressed to do so with this long lament; and perhaps it would have been better off left in the Fremont Antique Mall where he found it.

-Craig Young
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[ pitchshifter - city of angels
Pitchshifter
"Genius" (12" City Of Angels remixes)
City Of Angels

Links:
Pitchshifter

Silly me. I thought I had found Pitchshifter's "Genius" single on 12" while doing some album digging on the Internet one day. What I found instead were three remixes of "Genius" released on the electronic label, City Of Angels--something completely different than what I expected. Both the "Lunatic Calm Mix" and the "Deejay Punk-Roc Vocalicious Mix" appear on the import copies of Pitchshifter's "Microwaved" CD single. Deejay Punk-Roc's mix has a nice groove to it; slower tempo jungle beats with cut-up scratches of Jon Clayden's voice sprinkled over the top, but the whistle sample kept conjuring up images of Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine. Brrrr…bad thought, bad thought! The "Lunatic Calm Mix" is a little more upbeat with its sped-up hip hop bass thump. Again, Clayden's vocals are cut up and layered over the beats, and this time around there's some additional house vocals to keep things moving. Some of the samples and layering sound very similar to the Hallucinogen remix of Killing Joke's "4 Stations of the Sun." The last remix ("Whatever Remix") is my favorite, and is the closest to original with its sheer visceral intensity. DJ Wally took Mark Clayden's bass line, sped it up, dubbed it over top itself, added and took away distortion at different points, and mixed it with the song's original samples and guitar tracks to give it enough of a sneer and sharp bite to be the only track aggressive enough to stand up next to the original. The only thing this version could do without is the vocal tweaking; samples that sound like snotty prep school children inhaling helium.

Overall, not a bad find--just unexpected. There is no information on the City of Angels website about this. If you hunt this down on the net the only info you'll find is: Pitchshifter "Genius" vinyl, so buyer beware.

-Craig Young
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[ portishead - roseland nyc live ]
Portishead
Roseland NYC Live
Polygram

Links:
Official Portishead site
Portishead fan site

Shortly after the release of their self-titled second album last year, Portishead did this show in NYC backed by a 30-piece orchestra. The show was bootlegged heavily, and just seconds into the disc it is clear why. Live, Portishead is almost a different entity altogether. The music is the same, most of the tracks are performed without much alteration from the album cuts, but what is different is the tenor of the performance. Much more sorrowful, much more raw, much more live. Whereas the studio albums have a captured under glass feeling, the live sound is an open, throbbing heart on stage and every whispered lyric from Beth just tears at you.

The disc begins with the orchestra tuning, a seemingly inchoate moment caught on tape before the opening chord from "Humming" begins. As the chords swell, the orchestra snaps into place with muted horns and a wave of strings. This isn't the studio Portishead, this has a much more organic feel as the music sweeps and turns around the synthetic melody line. It is a masterful blend of studio instrumentation and live musicians. Then with "Cowboys" we are introduced to the live guitar sound--the ringing, gangling sound which roars and creeps throughout the theater. "All Mine" has this almost cabaret big band feel to it as Beth sings in a near croon.

The songs are all old friends if you have any passing familiarity with the Portishead oeuvre, but transformed by their live arrangements. It is the first recording I have heard in a long time which goes a long way to making something new from studio tracks. This is what a live show should be all about. We all come knowing the songs, sometimes just as well as the artists do. What makes for an amazing live show is the fresh take they bring to the music, the updated manner in which they choose to share with us. Especially for the old standards, those songs which have been beaten to death by the radio. Breathing new life into decayed chestnuts is always a high mark in live shows. Portishead even rescues "Sour Times" from Overplay Hell. Rescues? Sorry, try "triumphant return."

-Mark Teppo
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[ rorschach test - unclean ]
Rorschach Test
Unclean
Slipdisc

Links:
Rorschach Test

Rorschach Test's first release in 5 years incorporates 13 tracks, with 4 remixed old songs from 1994, and a guitar driven incredible cover of Berlin's "Sex," accompanied with vocals by Berlin's Terri Nunn. Rorschach Test plays in the mid-to-new Ministry vein of sludgy industrial metal with rapid fire drums, crunching guitars and throwing in some electronics. The main riff in the song "Elvis" could easily be a copyright infringement of "Thieves and Liars." You might think that a band would try to stretch to new boundaries in the last five years of work, but go figure, I guess. Why would you want to buy this disc? Aside from the fact that almost half of the tracks on Unclean are old or covers, the songs "Satan" and "Sex" are great and almost make it worth the price. I think that this band has potential and hope that in the next five years they show us what they really can do.

-Steve Weatherholt
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[ scarnella - scarnella ]
Scarnella
Scarnella
Smells Like Records

Links:
Billions' Scarnella site
Thee Geraldine Fibbers Shrine

Fuzzy--and not of the warm variety either--Scarnella proves that cacophony can yield some interesting, if not lulling and beautiful material. The scion from the avant garde group Geraldine Fibbers (consisting of the duo Carla Bozulich and Nels Cline) creates a lot of white noise, but under the sonic layers lay sounds somewhat unsettling; like the calm before a storm. Not surprising that this material wound up on Steve Shelley's (of Sonic Youth) Smells Like Records label.

Cerebral music can be both appealing and arduous to your ears. No doubt it serves as the yin and yang to your receptors. While part of your ears craves experimentation and new forms, there's that other part that yearns for familiar territory. While Scarnella creates a dense stratum of reverb, tones, feedback, resonance, noise, etc., it is successful at finding the balance (within songs and different styles) to keep the project from imploding by its own frenetic creations.

"Underdog" starts off quiet with a simple guitar line which builds progressively into a chaotic whirlwind and ends like a sonic monsoon leaving the shore. The somewhat idyllic "Release the Spring" begins with Cline's guitar sounding like a babbling brook. Layer upon layer, bass lines and Carla's throaty sing-song lyricism and spoken word create a bucolic setting. The anti-torch "The Most Useless Thing" has a subtle latin, jabańero feel and would serve as an appropriate background to a Pedro Almodóvar film. The upbeat number "Dandelions" absorbs the heaviness of the rest of the material and in a garage punk, comical kind of way. "You know they got to have it, you know they're gonna save the day!" The impassioned "Death by Northwest" could scare away any unwanted guest with Bozulich's screaming, "What can pass for sticks and stones…It's a powder keg! Fuck you Mark E. Nothing makes you happy anyway… Loud up the death by northwest, south is where the heart is...settle your accounts, the end is near." "Improvisation # 1 (Bag of Hair)" is febrile, frenetic white noise. The album ends with a "A Millennium Fever Ballad," a weary resignation to the end of the century that contains a haunting version of "Auld Lang Syne."

-Hope Lopez
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[ talvin singh - ok ]
Talvin Singh
OK
Omni/Island
eight out of ten

Tablas are the only acoustic instrument I can think of offhand (no pun intended) that could keep up with some of the breaks in current underground electronic music. Perhaps this similarity is a good place to understand what it is he is up to, and what this album is about. Mr. Singh takes native Indian musicality and weds it to London breakbeats, native London musicality. He uses voices on DATs, samples, clay tablas, Pro Tools, hand gongs, keyboards. Not that I recognized his licks or some studio frippery, just the sensibility. A descendant to early John Hassell, it's music that strives to synergize musical traditions, but not by homogenizing those roots into a "greatest breaks" collection. Rather than sample some instrument, decontexturalize it, and send it away, he seems to get the feel of it by listening, finding a way that it makes musical sense that the sounds should be together. A synthesis of traditions, one that sometimes is remarkably successful. Think Future Sound of Calcutta, not Graceland.

The album feels like a travelogue in ways, sometimes like a diary, and I think that may confuse a lot of listeners expecting a tabla record or a jungle record--a groove record. It has fat breaks, but the soul of the record is more focused on listening and playing, more meditative and abstract. I find myself listening to it and getting drawn into it for its details, absorbing the subtlety of its cymbal textures, or the shifting of the tablas' harmonics. It has fantastic arrangements, ones that draw the listener in to its world, transposing a rhythm forward and back into the mix, letting the tunes breathe. The overall effect is an intimate one, pulling the listener into his world. A challenging achievement, definitely worth checking out.

-Kenny Younts
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[ swinging utters - five lessons learned ]
Swingin' Utters
Five Lessons Learned
Fat Wreck Chords
The Swingin' Utters have always been the band that critics loved to pick on about which band they copied each outing. I admit their songs have that "I've heard that somewhere before" quality, but there is nothing wrong with having influences if you can make it into something new. I hear a variety of influences that the Utters use to craft their songs: The Pogues (Waiting For Herb era) on "A Promise To Distinction" and "The Stooge;" The Damned on "I Need Feedback;" The Kinks on "Good People;" The English Beat on "Unpopular Again;" CH3 on "The Stooge;" Social Distortion on "Tell Me Lies." My fiancé heard Motörhead in "Tell Me Lies" (I didn't). The Utters pepper their songs with their influences but still manage to make them greater than the sum of their parts.

Johnny Bonnel (has he changed his name from Peabucks (ŕ la TSOL) or is this a new vocalist?) actually sings instead of screaming a tune. Geez, I never noticed before how much he sounds like Spider Tracy from the Pogues. Soaring harmonies swoop through several songs; dashes of pop songs of yesteryear embrace many of the punk melodies. The band has a handful of outsiders to assist with special instrumentation (horns, keyboards and tambourine) which adds a new dimension to the songs. Their lyrics too have taken on a new dimension, perhaps one could even say maturation (check out "The Stooge" and "New Day Rising"). You can always tell when a punk band has aged, they sing about wishing they were 21 again ("Untitled 21"). This time their songs tend to deal with a seamy, old-fashioned, hooliganish underworld where the hoods have hearts, unlimited alcohol tolerance, regrets and a "code of ethics" and all the cocktail bimbos are really streetwise, good girls in bad situations. The art is very roaring twenties with all the weapons, violence and sex appeal in hand. They have expanded beyond plain punk into a world bordering on punk, but infused with a wealth of influences which fuse together in a cohesive pop-punk blend. The Streets Of San Francisco seems a million light years away right now.

-Swade
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[ zero flip side - temperal zone ]
Zero Flip Side
Temperal Zone
Transition Recordings

Links:
Zero Flip Side

seven out of ten

I'm pretty lame when it comes to keeping up the local music scene in and around Seattle. I'm even lamer for not having a more firm knowledge of local Electro/Industrial bands since I fancy myself to be a connoisseur. So when something like Zero Flip Side comes my way I get a sudden dose of reality.

Without making too many generalities, let me pay a comparative compliment to Zero Flip Side and then I'll get on with it. Zero Flip Side sound like a cross between NIN (circa Pretty Hate Machine) and Morcheeba. Two excellent bands.

But this is only the initial reaction. After a few listens you start to pick up on the subtle nuances that make Zero Flip Side more that just another narrow frequency in the gigantic heap of MHz that is electonica.

Their first release, Temperal Zone, contains ten solid songs, great package design (props to Rebecca Zimmer, hope all is well in Africa) and is supported by a damn fine web site.

ZFS call themselves a techno band for the industrial goth. Though their music does contain all the best elements of techno, ZFS manage to jettison its pitfalls, mainly mind numbing repetition and lack of structure. Their songs breathe and give you time to absorb. But don't get me wrong…this album would feel as at home on the dance floor as it would on any industrial goth play list.

My only complaint here is that I want to hear more of the male vocalist, Scully. He is equally as good as the female, Flea (I don't get the impression that this is any fascination with the X-Files or the Red Hot Chili Peppers) and when they play off of each other it creates a totally original element that I love.

I can't wait to see this band live. Bravo!

-Jeff Ashley
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