Monthly Archives: June 2011

Oneida – Absolute II

January 01, 1970

(Jagjaguwar)

 

www.jagjaguwar.com

 

Even long-time Oneida
fans, trained over multiple albums to expect the unexpected, may balk at the
radical minimalism of this album.  Put it
simply: Everything you think of as Oneida-ness is missing.

 

Particulars?  Kid Millions, one
of experimental rock’s best and most distinctive drummers, has completely
abandoned his kit. There are no audible drums in any of these tracks, and in
the closing cut, no rhythm, no marking, even of the passage of time. You can hear Millions singing, faintly,
discontinuously, as if through a helicopter rotor in “Horizon,” the only track
with vocals. Still, the whispery folksiness, so at odds with Oneida’s pummeling propulsiveness, is nowhere
in sight. Other core members are likewise disguised.  Hanoi Jane who laid down the bass that drove Oneida’s earlier material
into infinite groove had disappeared into a miasma of electronic hum. Fat Bobby
is, undoubtedly, still manning a stack of keyboards, but not with the kind of
motoric, two-finger keyboard riffs that pushed “$50 Tea” and other songs over
into manic overdrive.   Instead, keyboard
tones lie in limpid pools, one note lapping over another, with no sense of
motion or urgency. If Rated O made
you realize how many different sides Oneida
had, Absolute II hints at as yet
unexplored dimensions. We are a long,
long way from “All-Arounder. “

 

Absolute II is intended as
the final segment of the Thank Your
Parents
triptych, which in 2008 with Preteen
Weaponry
, swelled to epic proportions with last year’s Rated O and now sidles off into the ether with shapeless, formless,
yet curiously compelling Absolute II.
This four-track disc begins with its most accessible offering, “Pre-Human.” The
piece follows a four-note keyboard riff, stacked two to a measure, for more
than five unvarying moments. Other keyboards play above and beneath this
central motif, one subterranean and almost subliminal, nudging up from the
track’s murky bottom, the other scattering eerie space sounds and ghostly
shards of melody over its surface. As this goes on for about half the track’s
duration, continuation seems to be the main idea. That is, whatever this is, it
can persist, perhaps indefinitely. But, suddenly, then it stops, the forward
rhythm dissolving into a hum and hiss of tone.  You think you have gotten to the bottom of Oneida’s subtractive
minimalism in the first half of “Pre-Human,” that you have adjusted and even
begun to hear its repetition as song. Then the band subtracts that, and you are
forced to readjust to an even less populated art.  This process continues through “Horizon”‘s
machine drone and electrical hiss, through the shocking, violent crashes that
punctuate mostly silent “Gray Area” and finally into the glacial swells and
recessions of sound that mark “Absolute II”. Less become less and still less
and finally almost nothing at all, as you dive deeper and deeper in this this
sightless, featureless landscape.

 

Absolute II requires
adjustment, a level of attention that has to become keener even as musical
signposts like rhythm, melody, key and motif fade into the fog. And yet, oddly,
it rewards this greater scrutiny. You follow faint trails, paths that may not
even be paths, and if you get lost,
you won’t be the first. You get the sense that Oneida wandered, too, as they made these
tracks, pushing on when they’d gone past their limits and gaping at what they
saw beyond them.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Pre-Human” JENNIFER KELLY

 

Esmerine – La Lechuza

January 01, 1970

(Constellation)

 

www.ctrecords.com

 

With its elegiac third full-length, Montreal’s Esmerine makes the leap from intriguing
offshoot to compelling full-time entity. La
Lechuza
, the band’s first record in five years, finds the duo of percussionist
Bruce Cawdron (Godspeed You! Black Emperor) and cellist Beckie Foon (Thee
Silver Mt. Zion) welcoming into the fold harp-player Sarah Page (The Barr
Brothers) and percussionist Andrew Barr (The Slip, Land of Talk, The Barr
Brothers). The resulting palette-expansion certainly fleshes out the record’s
nine compositions. Equally key, though, the added instrumentation provides the
necessary complexity to convey the emotional weight uniting these songs.

 

Dedicated to  — and
inspired by — all four bandmembers’ collaborations and friendships with
Canadian singer Lhasa De Sala, who died of breast cancer at just 37 on New
Year’s Day in 2010, the wistful undertow works best in the contrast between the
harp’s airy glissandos and the cello’s forlorn bottom end. Cawdron’s mallet
work on marimba and glock provides the rhythmic thrum, balancing between
Tortoise-like urgency (“Sprouts”) and a lighter, islands-flavored vibe
(“Trampolin”). Arcade Fire contributors Sarah Neufeld and Colin Stetson add to
the swirling opener “A Dog River” and the Spaghetti Western-flavored “Little
Streams Make Big Rivers,” while Patrick Watson (at whose Montreal home much of the record was
recorded) joins Page at the mic on “Last Waltz.” Watson’s falsetto also
highlights the LP’s stunning centerpiece, “Snow Day for Lhasa.”

 

But it’s the closer that neatly – and surprisingly– ties
everything together. The funereal pace of “Fish On Land” is built around hesitant
piano chords through which string squiggles and bowed marimba ebb and flow to
create a haunting soundscape. But when Lhasa’s
rich and earthy vocals materialize as though out of a dream-mist, the song – a
previously unreleased version Lhasa made with Esmerine’s
founding duo – renders the entire record into both a eulogy to Lhasa and testament to the
newfound creative relationships she inspired. 

 

It’s a defining moment for the newly expanded band.
Esmerine’s first two records as the Cawdron/Foon duo (with occasional guest
spots) were pleasing and promising but ultimately flawed records where texture
and style trumped songcraft just often enough that the LPs sometimes had an
antiseptic, under glass feel and read like a compendium of post-rock chamber
group genres; here’s our drone piece, the ambient track, the transcendent
crescendo, etc. Here, though, Lhasa’s
spirit suffuses these songs with an emotional core that takes Le Lechuza  to another level all together – one where the
music and subject matter meld into a spiritual and organic whole.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Last
Waltz,” “Fish on Land,” “Trampolin” JOHN SCHACHT

You Dirty Rats – You Dirty Rats EP

January 01, 1970

(self-released)

 

www.youdirtyrats.net

 

Tarheel rockers You Dirty Rats – Templeton, Remy and Jeffe
Rat on guitar, guitar and bass, respectively, plus Senor Cats on drums – hail
from the western portion of N.C. but they crank out an edgy, brand of noirish blooze-punk considerably removed from the region’s prevailing Americana twang and
bluegrass.

 

Together for about a year and a half, they’ve gradually been
amassing a reputation for dynamic performances and, on the basis of their
self-titled 5-song debut, equally memorable songs. Right from the get-go, with
seething opening track “Until I Get It Right,” the band peers into the abyss
both sonically and psychologically, arpeggiated riffs punctuating Templeton
Rat’s darkly snarled vocals. Another highlight is “Like I Wore You,” with its
marriage of vintage Gun Club cowpunk and Television angularity plus veiled yet sexually
charged lyricism, while “Hey Hey” evinces a Clash-like muscularity and
anthemism sorely lacking from the contemporary music scene.

 

This EP actually came out a number of months ago, but in the
interim, thanks to the magic of digital streams I’d already become intimately
familiar with the five songs contained therein. They are all currently available
for your listening pleasure at the band’s official website and I suggest you
run, don’t walk, to the nearest computer kiosk and fire ‘em up. With that in
mind, then, it’s high time Templeton Rat & Co. get crackin’ with some fresh
tuneage. They’re one of N.C.’s most exciting new bands, period.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Until
I Get It Right,” “Hey Hey” FRED MILLS

 

 

You Dirty Rats’ next
show will be July 29, with Drunken Prayer, at the Pulp club (under the Orange
Peel) in Asheville.

Peter Tosh – Legalize It: Legacy Edition + Equal Rights: Legacy Edition

January 01, 1970

(Columbia/Legacy)

 

www.legacyrecordings.com

 

As the musician was a staunch advocate of The National Organization for the Reform of
Marijuana Laws (aka NORML) and the total decriminalization of the ganja
smoke during his life, one could hypothesize how Peter Tosh would felt about
how far America has come in terms of the social tolerance for the good old
“Mother Nature” had he survived the senseless execution-style
assassination attempt on September 11, 1987 (during a home invasion gone awry).  We’re not Amsterdam yet by any stretch of the
imagination. But given the fact that TV shows and films like Weeds, Dazed and Confused, Half-Baked and Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle are
on regular rotation in households across the nation, weed dispensaries are
popping up like 7-Elevens in California, and the use of pot for medicinal
purposes is becoming commonplace for everything from cancer to glaucoma, it is
certain Mr. Tosh would have been satisfied with such semblances of progress,
albeit with the presumptive mindset they were kick-started about a
quarter-century late.

 

The former Wailer made no airs about his demands to
“Legalize It” in his music, as can be heard on the immortal Minister
of Herb’s groundbreaking 1976 solo debut, which has been given the Legacy
Edition treatment from his first American label as a solo artist, Columbia
Records. Spearheaded by its call-to-bongs title track and controversial cover
art depicting him smoking a bowl amidst a crop of sticky icky, Legalize It emerged three years after
the split of the original Wailers. Compounding the drama, the LP was also
released opposite his two former bandmates’ own groundbreaking studio endeavors
in Bunny Wailer’s epic Blackheart Man and
Bob Marley’s sole Top Ten LP, Rastaman
Vibration
(not to mention in the wake of a tragic auto accident that killed
his girlfriend Evonne and fractured Tosh’s skull, causing what some believed to
be an unchecked brain injury). And while Bunny and Bob were both involved in
the album’s creation, with Wailer contributing background vocals on four cuts and
Marley sharing songwriting credits on the poignant “Why Must I Cry”
as well as lending a hand on the financial side of things, much of Legalize It was cast beneath the shadow
of Tosh’s frustration over the break-up of his longtime partnership with both
men that dates back to 1963.

 

Yet for the instances of combative emotions that may have
existed within the kinky grooves of tracks like “No Sympathy” and
“Till Your Well Runs Dry,” they are counterbalanced by more playful
tunes like the sexually charged “Ketchy Shuby” and the spiritually
uplifting “Igziabeher (Let Jah Be Praised),” hailed as one of the first
reggae songs to incorporate the use of a synthesizer. In addition to liner
notes penned by acclaimed author and longtime Tosh accomplice Roger Steffens,
the Legacy version of Legalize features
an expanded edition of the original album with added demo versions of almost
every song on the album. It also boasts a bonus disc containing the far-grittier
Jamaican mix of the LP that showcases the album Tosh truly wanted to make,
along with alternate and dub versions of select cuts, some of which have rarely
been heard outside of the local Kingston
sound systems until now.

 

Yet where Legalize It chronicled
more of Tosh’s more personal viewpoints on the struggles of life, love and herb
in the wake of tragedy and disappointment, its 1977 follow-up, Equal Rights, was a grand political
manifesto that showcased the singer’s view of the world around him at the
height of the Cold War era.  It was an
album recorded in Jamaica during the country’s most elevated period of civil
conflict and unrest since 1865’s treacherous Morant Bay Rebellion that saw
nearly 1000 Jamaicans killed at the hands of government troops and more than
600 wrongfully imprisoned under martial law (and book-ended by the recent armed
conflict that all but decimated the country’s capital of Kingston in May of
2010). According to insightful liner notes by Tosh’s longtime manager Herbie
Miller, the political chaos took its toll on the creation of the record, as
power cuts, curfews, police oppression, military curtailment and random
eruptions of violence caused the artist to continuously reschedule and cancel
paid time at various studios around Kingston
before defecting to Miami
for the final mix.

 

But the turmoil-saturated creative process yielded what many
consider to be the greatest reggae album ever made, bolstered by songs like the
arresting version of “Get Up, Stand Up,” Tosh’s empowering anthem he
co-wrote with Marley for the Wailers’ classic second Island LP Burnin’, as well as the defiant
“Jah Guide” and the confrontational “Stepping Razor,” a song
originally written by early Wailers mentor and renowned “Godfather of
Reggae” Joe Higgs back in 1967, which Tosh recorded without properly
crediting him until Higgs won a court case against him establishing his standing
as the song’s true author. However, what made Equal Rights stand out beyond the tracks that addressed the
harrowing situation in Jamaica was the material directing Peter’s discomfort
with the events unfolding in other parts of the globe as well, particularly in
Africa, where tracks like “Downpressor Man,” “African” and
“Apartheid” aggressively chronicled the human rights violations
taking place in the central and southern regions of the Dark Continent. Meanwhile,
the cover art itself found Tosh emulating the likeness of Cuban revolutionary
Che Guevara as a nod of confidence to his contemporaries in Latin America while
cementing his stature as a fearless spokesman for the trials and tribulations
of the “Third World” in the context of the global “shitstem,” as
he so eloquently called it. 

 

The Legacy Edition of Equal adds seven previously unreleased outtakes from the original sessions on the
first disc, including such sought-after studio rarities as “Vampire,”
“Babylon Queendom,” “Mark of the Beast” and a solo version of
the Wailers classic “400 Years” that lyrically expounds upon the
original’s already explosive anti-colonial sentiments. The second disc contains
demo, alternate and extended renditions of several key album tracks as well as
a gang of dub plate versions that, like the ones featured on the Legalize It Legacy Edition, were only
previously available in extremely limited form.

 

Soon after Equal
Rights
, Peter Tosh signed with Rolling Stones Records and achieved more
mainstream success thanks to his then-newly minted relationship with Keith
Richards and Mick Jagger, cumulating in a memorable cameo in the Stones’
“Waiting On A Friend” video that received considerable airplay during
the infancy of MTV. Yet his visibility within a more commercialized marketplace
never hindered the Minister’s propensity to rage against the machine.  Undoubtedly, subsequent titles like 1978’s Bush Doctor, 1983’s Mama Africa and his Grammy-winning 1987 swan song No Nuclear War continued to demonstrate
his abilities as one of the world’s most outspoken political and cultural
activists. But no recordings established his stance as reggae music’s most
electrifying and controversial public figures quite like his first two solo masterpieces
for Columbia Records, both of which are now made more essential than ever.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Legalize It”, “What’cha Gonna Do”, “Why Must I
Cry”, “Igziabeher (Let Jah Be Praised)”, “Burial (Dub
Plate)”, “Second Hand (Shajahshoka Dub Plate)”, “Get Up,
Stand Up”, “Downpressor Man”, “Jah Guide”, “400
Years (Outtake)”, “Vampire (Outtake)”, “Mark Of The Beast
(Outtake)”, “Heavy Razor (Shajahshoka Dub Plate)”, “Equal
Rights (extended version)”, “Blame The Yout (Dub Plate)” RON HART

 

 

Aaron Wood – Aaron Wood

January 01, 1970

(J-Woo Records)

 

www.aaronwoodmusic.com

 

Aaron Wood – that’s “Woody” Wood to pretty much anyone who
knows the gent – has been a mainstay of the western N.C. independent scene for
years, having creased the national radar during the ‘90s as a member of the Sub
Pop-signed Blue Rags and subsequently going on to assorted other regional combos
and collaborations, including power-rock outfit Hollywood Red and even a latter-day
Blue Rags revival. Aaron Wood is, in
effect, a career summation for the multitasking musician, touching down in a
selection of overlapping genres that ably showcase his songwriting, singing and
guitar-slinging talents.

 

To wit, among the obvious highlights of this standouts-stuffed
11-song platter: the southern-fried, Tom Pettyish powerpop of “Coal Black
Hair,” twangy garage raveup “Used To It,” downcast country-roots ballad “Speak
Your Name” and blazing, horns-heavy funk-rocker “Too Late,” a track that
wouldn’t be out of place on Warren Haynes’ recent solo album. Hold that
thought: check the gospel-tinged, waltz-time anthem “Back Home,” in which Wood
pushes his soulful pipes well into the realms of possession – close your eyes and you’d swear it was a Memphis or
Muscle Shoals production circa the early ‘70s.

 

Recorded at the venerable Echo Mountain
facility and boasting an array of local talent including Mike Rhodes, Ryan
Burns, members of the Asheville Horns, Matt Gentling from the Archers of Loaf
and ex-Lynyrd Skynyrd Artimus Pyle, the album makes for a sharp reintroduction
of Aaron Wood to the national scene at large. If you happen to catch him
playing, however, it’s probably cool if you skip the formalities and just
address him as “Woody.”

 

DOWNLOAD: “Too
Late,” “Back Home,” “Used To It” FRED MILLS

Various Artists – Tommy Castro Presents The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue

January 01, 1970

(Alligator)

 

www.alligator.com

 

Back in the 1950’s the “revue” was common in R&B music.
To save money, several artists would join together, hire a bus and drive across
the country doing gigs. You might find anybody from a young James Brown and the
Flames to a young Ray Charles down toward the bottom of the bill of an R&B
tour. Flash forward five decades to the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruises
sailing now alternately on the Pacific and Caribbean which have become popular
in recent years. Tommy Castro has been on virtually every one of them and loves
the jam sessions with other artists. So he decided to take the concept on the
road. This revue works by having Castro’s band be the house band for various
artists joining in.

 

 Tommy Castro Presents The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue is a
live record of eight different shows both on land and sea featuring Castro and
nine different blues artists. They range from veterans such as Joe Louis Walker
and Debbie Davis to newcomers such as the sibling act Trampled Under Foot.

 

And here is the news from the blues road: this is one of the
best live blues albums ever made. There are plenty of live albums out there but
this one does what a live album should: It somehow transcend the original recordings
to capture the spirit and energy of the performance. You can almost feel the
intensity of an artist clicking with an audience. Think of James Brown’s
classic Live at the Apollo.  Tommy
Castro Presents The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue
is not in that class
but it is in the same ballpark.

 

It starts with the song selection. Even though the 12 tracks
are from different shows, they are selected in such a way that you can feel the
excitement of a revue show. It starts with two Tommy Castro songs featuring the
sax and trumpet work of Keith Crossan and Tom Poole to remind us that this is
R&B. The second Castro selection is a version of Dylan’s “Gotta Serve
Somebody” that highlights Castro’s blistering guitar playing and rocks as hard
as or even harder than the original.

 

The two Castro songs lead into the highlight of the album:
“Voodoo Spell” by Alligator artist Michael “Iron Man” Burks. You might have to
go back to Johnny Winter, Buddy Guy or Luther Allison to find a live guitar
track this good. Burks takes a three minute song from his first album and turns
into a 10 minute powerhouse of screaming blues. The song starts slow and then
builds and builds. Burks lays down incredible guitar licks. It also features a
beautiful piano work by Tony Stead of Castro’s band.

 

Also noteworthy is the song selection in the middle of the
album. KC based Trampled Under Foot attack the blues like a power rock trio.
That leads into Castro doing his horn heavy, hard driving “Painkiller” which
leads to another gem of this album: Janiva Magness wrapping her powerful,
soulful voice around “Think.” Magness shows why she won an award for Blues
Entertainer of the Year and why she is one of the greatest female blues singers
working today.

 

Add in a slow blues by another powerful female voice, Sista
Monica Parker, the driving full blast harp playing of Rick Estrin channeling
the ghost of Little Walter, an Al Green like soul song from Theodis Ealey and
you have a classic live recording. If you were giving a house party and you
wanted the perfect disk to get people up and moving, this would be it. Kudos to
Tommy Castro for hitting on a brilliant idea and for Alligator for putting it
out. If you ever hear of one of Castro’s “revues” coming your way, or, unlike
me, can afford the heavy coin needed to take one of the Legendary Rhythm and
Blues Cruises, by all means go. If not, get this CD and keep playing it loud.

 

 

DOWNLOAD: “Voodoo
Spell” “Gotta Serve Somebody” “It’s A Shame” “All I Found” TOM CALLAHAN 

 

Rock & Roll…And the Beat Goes On

January 01, 1970

(Imagine! Publishing)

 

www.imaginebks.com

 

BY SAM BALTES

 

The potential problem with Cousin Brucie’s Rock & Roll…And the Beat Goes On – and
books of this ilk – is that the ‘60s are such a thoroughly mined decade that
it’s hard to spin an engrossing yarn about them any more. Is there really
anything left to say about Elvis and the Beatles? 

 

But legendary DJ Cousin Brucie does a decent job by
chronicling the era with enough verve to constitute a fresh read.   

 

Brucie, best known for his 1960-74 tenure on the Top 40
pioneer, WABC-AM (now a conservative talk radio station featuring the likes of
Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Don Imus), is strongest when spieling about the
halcyon days of rock ‘n’  roll, and the
book covers the key events from Sun Records through Altamont with a feeling of
firsthand vivacity. The focus is on the ‘60s, natch, and Brucie juxtaposes the
music alongside major cultural events such as the civil rights movement/sexual revolution/Kent State.

 

To his credit, and though Brucie’s allegiances lie with the
usual radio friendly behemoths, he states his case without being a windbag. His
prose is crisp but strewn with rock slang; this doesn’t necessarily hinder the
book, seeing that it reflects the patois of the epoch, but does come across as
somewhat mawkish at times. Despite topic limitations, Brucie mostly avoids
cliché and puts his own spin on things. He pays homage to the less bloated acts
(Troggs/Blue Cheer/ Steppenwolf/MC5/Stooges), albeit occasionally tinged with a
patronizing attitude; he admires the Stooges’ vitality, for instance, but the
closest he comes to a compliment is, “It must have been very therapeutic.” The
fallacy in Brucie’s outlook is that he equates popularity with aesthetic
accomplishment (understandable, given he’s ensconced in the radio biz). He
doesn’t devote a sentence to The Velvet Underground; disparages Sleepy Labeef
for being too raw; and presumes that rock ‘n’ roll ceased to be a viable social
agent after the capitulation of the Baby Boomers.

 

The last third of the book is mired by Brucie rationalizing
the lassitude of ‘70s soft rock in lieu of detailing ongoing genre development
(i.e. punk, New Wave, post-punk, etc.). “After stomping our feet for ten years
straight, it was time to lean back into a comfortable cushion.” That’s Brucie
defending James Taylor and his solipsistic acoustic coterie. He pays lip service
to passing torch and being open-minded about contemporary musicians, but
neglects the flame bearers of subsequent decades. Spending more time on The
Carpenters than The Clash is antithetical to the principles of rock, and Brucie
seems oblivious that he displays the attitudes he purportedly opposes.

 

But this is a compendium of – per the book’s title – “Rock
& Roll” as perceived by Cousin Brucie. And for what it is, it’s an engaging
enough read. His anecdotes about emceeing The Beatles at Shea Stadium and
interviewing an ostentatious Jim Morrison counterbalance his obvious prejudices
against everything that didn’t happen in rock’s first two decades. Cousin
Brucie isn’t John Peel, but this book is prime coffee table material for ‘60s
nostalgia addicts – whom I suspect are Brucie’s primary constituents.

 

 

 

 

Wax Museums – Eye Times

January 01, 1970

(Trouble in Mind)

 

www.troubleinmindrecs.com

 

The Wax Museums write fast, sloppy punk songs about any damned thing,
chronicling summer’s highs (“Breakfast for Dinner”) and lows (“Mosquito Enormo”
and “Sunburn”) with Ramones-esque bravado. Their lyrics sound like someone’s
smart-mouthed teenage brother (“You know I hate the space between/your neck and
eyebrows” from “Between”) cracking wise between huffs of paint. Their music,
too, is the essence of garage punk simplicity, two- and three-chord rave-ups
stripped of ornamentation and pushed to maximum velocity.

 

Still there’s a bit of a sideways grin tucked in here, as if the
members of the Wax Museums (some of whom also play in Mind Spiders and the Bad
Sports) are not anywhere near as stupid as they’re pretending to be. “Mosquito
Enormo,” is all dead-panned and stoner-fogged, a song that is pretty
straightforwardly about getting bitten by bugs. You’re laughing at the Wax
Museums all the way through it, thinking how could they possibly take this
seriously enough to write a song about it? 
And then, suddenly you started to realize (maybe with the aside, “Tell
you something scarier/I think you’ve got malaria”) that they’re laughing right
back at you. The sex songs are just as intentionally, in-your-facedly lame-brained,  “Breakfast for Dinner” somehow making a link
between afternoon pancakes and doing the nasty, “Bruiser” looking at the bright
side of girl-on-boy sexual violence (“She’s a bruiser/because her love
shows/even after she’s gone”).

 

These are dumb-assed songs, but they’re really great dumb-assed songs, pumped up with Clash/Ramones guitar mayhem,
clattering chaotic drums and catchy melodies of ADD-level brevity. Stop thinking
about it, and enjoy the Eye Times this summer. Just don’t forget the sunblock…or the bug repellant.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Mosquito Enormo”
“Breakfast for Dinner” JENNIFER
KELLY

 

 

Liam Finn – FOMO

January 01, 1970

(Yep
Roc)

 

www.yeproc.com

 

Being
the offspring of a famous artist rarely assures of success, although the name
recognition it affords obviously doesn’t hurt either. And yet, when it comes to
the musicians who have been most successful in establishing their own franchise
– Teddy Thompson and Rufus Wainwright spring immediately to mind – it’s those
that have veered furthest away from mom or dad’s template that have attained
the biggest breakout.

 

The
son of Crowded House’s Neil Finn, Liam Finn certainly falls into that category.
Although his initial efforts – the full-length I’ll Be Lightning and its
follow-up, the Champagne in Seashells EP – didn’t make him an overnight
star, they did provide evidence that he wasn’t merely mimicking his dad, but
that he’d plot his own identity instead. Finn’s obviously ruminated on his
choices quite carefully; it’s been three years since his last offering, and
given the fresh currency he invests in this new effort, he’s clearly has his
sights set on fresh ideas.

 

Still,
for all his wanderlust, Finn betrays some attachment to the home front. The new
album’s title signals second thoughts (FOMO is an acronym for “Fear of
Missing Out”), and the highly charged arrangements often threaten to blur the
appealing melodies hidden within. “Neurotic World,” for example, creates the
impression of a yearning lament, but the swirling soundscape seems somewhat out
of sync. On the other hand, “Cold Feet” proves a more affable outing, a cooing
pop song that’s radio ready. The lazy sway of “Real Late” is mooted by its follow
up, the hyper, high-strung, and aptly named “The Struggle,” and even a song
like “Reckless,” a formidable rocker by any measure, takes too much of a cue
from its title by using the raucous undertow to push the point.

 

Ultimately,
FOMO offers the impression Finn’s still struggling to find his way, even
as he bravely ventures forward. A little fine tuning, and this Finn ought to be
fine indeed.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Cold Feet,” “Real
Late” LEE ZIMMERMAN

Mountains – Air Museum

January 01, 1970

(Thrill Jockey)

 

www.thrilljockey.com

 

Brooklyn-based duo Mountains continue to take drone music to new peaks
of creativity on their second Thrill Jockey album, Air Museum.

 

On their 2009 debut Choral, Brendon Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp proved just how far
acoustic instruments can be transported beyond their natural state through the
ether of the latest advances in computer software, transforming everything from
bass, guitars and pianos to cellos, accordions and melodicas through
their homegrown digital filtration technique.

 

Air Museum,
meanwhile, finds the pair taking these same instruments but processing them
through an assortment of effects pedals, modular synthesizers and other assorted
acts of analog trickery, recording everything in real time with minimal
editing. This new approach has given Mountains a more rhythmic sense of
purpose, palpable in the context of “Thousand Square”, which comes across
like one big intro to a Company Flow song, as well as “Sequel” and “Backwards
Crossover”, both of which are akin to Vangelis if he followed Brian Eno’s
lead by signing to Warp.

 

However, by the end of the record, all is washed away in a
haze of amp-infused tone clusters that permeate the closing number “Live
at the Triple Door”, a mesmerizing edit of a live performance at 2009’s
Decibel Festival in Seattle that just envelops your senses as if you were
standing in the crowd watching them onstage from the comfort of your listening
room.

 

The method by which Mountains blur the line between nature
and technology through their multi-textural sound system feels more enriching
than ever on this strange and beautiful journey through the electro-acoustic cosmos.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Thousand Square”,
“Sequel”, “Backwards Crossover”, “Live at the Triple
Door” RON HART