Week of June 4, 2001

Foetus / Flow / Thirsty Ear

For twenty years, Mr. Thirlwell has specialized in combining raw, bloody-fisted brutality with gentlemanly sophistication, a little like the nattily-attired gangsters in Guy Ritchie's movies. He's made a habit of dishing up some of the heaviest industrial beats in the business -- and then using them as backing for spectacular big band numbers and noir jazz blowouts. It's an odd juxtaposition, to say the least, as Thirlwell's musical mastery is pressed into the service of swaggering, old-school sexual predators...more»

Fontanelle / F / Kranky

"Fulcrum" begins the disc with a mellow groove and a buzzy, syncopated bass lick. The tune has the kind of understated strut that portends a big, crashing drum entrance, but none ever comes -- the song maintains its impossible sense of cool. "Corrective Lenses" sort of goes underground; it's a moody, wallowing thing that recalls some dim, smoky subterranean room. Like its predecessor, it refuses to allow itself to be seen clearly, obfuscating by doggedly returning to the same few musical ideas...more»

Monstre / Sucre3 / Alien8

While Sucre3 contains its share of nasty sounds, it's also insanely catchy and smile-inducing, in a way that those more "serious" releases almost never are. If Richard D. James went to Indonesia for a couple years to study gamelan and monkey chant, this would be the CD he'd make on his return. It's full of tweaked-out voice samples, samba riffs, long, slow, cyclical rhythms, crazed shrieking chants and gorgeous long-form drones. Just like a great pop album, each track on the disc creates its own strange little world, then slowly sucks you in...more»

[fevers, rats and stars]
Elizabeth Aubrey / Fevers, Rats and Stars / Peaches & Cream

From Sylvia Plath to PJ Harvey, some of the sharpest and most insightful commentary on the contemporary human condition has come from women who have opened their wounds for all to see. Elizabeth Aubrey joins the fray with Fevers, Rats and Stars, which follows in the tradition of paradoxically self-confident, self-doubting artists like Harvey and Liz Phair, with gently orchestrated pop songs about (among other things) "chronic fatigue, anxiety dreams/bad cramps, obsessing"...more»

The Battles / Lycanthropy / Blue Curtain

The Battles have constructed an album of joyous '70s pop, infused with a melodic sensibility straight out of the '60s. While the album is unabashedly retro, the band fuses the styles of the time into a musical conglomerate that remains individual in its own eccentricities. Quirky Soft Boys-style vocals meander through sun-drenched, psychedelia, juxtaposed with guitar-chiming Big Star aesthetics...more»

C / Dep / Minority

More math-rocky goodness, please! At first I was afraid this was going to be seven excruciating tracks of Eastern European electronic dance music. Actually, it was only one and a half tracks of electronic dance music and five and a half surprisingly good, angular post-hardcore ones. "Strictly Rhythm", the second track, is a kick-ass instrumental powerhouse which -- you guessed it -- is totally dominated by rhythmic themes. Jerky and a bit dissonant, itís a sonic thesis on exploded mathcore...more»

[month of sundays]
The Chamber Strings / Month of Sundays / Bobsled

Right off the bat, you get the notion that Junior and his bandmates each have at least five Chicago (the band not the city) albums floating in their music collections. The gently layered sounds and drowsy mid-tempo feel of "Itís No Wonder", not to mention the sonorous swoon of the instrumental title track, provide immediate evidence of this. Your Cetera-related intuition may be further strengthened by the piano-led lilt of "The Fool Sings Without Any Song"...more»

[dizzy spells]
The Ex / Dizzy Spells / Touch & Go

For me, the guitar interplay is the best thing about Dizzy Spells. It's the rare cacophonic explosion that makes perfect sense, and that doesn't simply seem like a band in search of a tune. Their noisy blasts and bombfire melodies scatter the lyrics, making them explode everywhere around you. Add to that G.W. Sok's vocals, delivered with the intensity of early Clash, and the Ex's political messages and cheers are firmly felt...more»

[trail of the butter yeti]
Rollerball / Trail of the Butter Yeti / Road Cone

Rollerball is not your everyday free-form-flood-of-quirky-oddly-timed-numbers group. Rather, there's something expectedly, well, unexpected about each musical maneuver these musicians take. Try as you might, it's quite difficult to anticipate the strange guitar effects and blurted saxophone lines that trickle from each of these eleven tunes. This is the type of stuff that can permanently alter your thought processes, forcing you to wonder whether straightforward, 4/4-time pop music will ever again do anything for you...more»

Rosa Chance Well / Self-Titled / Kimchee

Sometimes bands are just like romantic relationships. Who hasn't had friends who date someone for a while, then part ways, then get back together, then take a break, then reunite again? The vital question in this situation would be, "Is the timing right at last?" In the case of Rosa Chance Well, the answer would be a resounding "Yes". After playing together in Samuel, which broke up six years ago, Dean Taormina and Vanessa Downing tried to keep it all together by forming Rosa Chance Well. After only one live show, they moved on...more»

[el gran baile]
Señor Coconut / El Gran Baile / Emperor Norton

This reissue comes at a time when Uwe Schmidt, aka Señor Coconut, aka Atom Heart, is more popular than ever. The music on El Gran Baile comes from somewhere between drum and bass and Tito Puente, though it's a lot cooler than that description implies. Combining skittering drums with insane drum loops and horn hits, it's a heady, propulsive sound that seems as much at home on a garish Las Vegas stage as it does in a sweaty downtown club...more»

[charm soundtrack]
Various Artists / Original Soundtrack: Charm / 5RC

I love it when a plan comes together. Underground filmmakers Sadie Shaw and Sarah Reed, also members of the Kill Rocks Stars band The Need, have made an indie horror film called Charm. The press kit promises a film about "The destructive nature of relationships both friendly and familial" -- but from the trailer included on the enhanced CD, weíre promised all the things we really care about: attractive young people, nudity, blood and lots of freaking out. And duh! Cool music from hip bands...more»

Various Artists / Rarewerks / Astralwerks

Admittedly, all of the tracks are by artists you probably will have heard of in the last few years, unless you've been on an all-expenses paid trip with some Cosmonauts: Fatboy Slim, the Chemical Brothers, Air, the Beta Band, Primal Scream. If you're an electronica fan, the remaining names should be household mezuzah for you as well: Future Sound of London (FSOL), Cassius, Photek, Basement Jaxx. When I first saw the lineup, I thought I'd been gypped; I own just about everything these groups have released...more»

[better today then]
Wow and Flutter / Better Today Then / Jealous Butcher

Unless you've been living in a cave, you've heard music like this before. Wow and Flutter falls most of the way into the "sprawling, epic rock" category -- in other words, you're most likely to enjoy Better Today Then if you were the first person in line to buy Mogwai's Rock Action on the day it came out. However, Better Today Then arrives without the expectations that greeted Rock Action and other high-profile "post-rock" releases; more modest in scope and less innovative in presentation, it is nonetheless easy to enjoy...more»

[at a glance]
And this week in At A Glance:
Bulbul, Puerto Muerto, The Strokes, Paul Steven Ray, Structure Factor 8, Bablicon, Count M'Butu Orchestra, Monster Movie, Membranaphonics, Khan, Jamie Solow, Nataraj XT, Betty Already, Crushstory, Weezer, Superglider Sampler, Adam West, Common Heroes, Mezzanine~C14, Random Access Music Machine - U.S. Pop Life Vol. 7: Experimental, Spacious International, The Autumns, Symphony for Heartbreak - U.S. Pop Life Vol. 9: Seattle-Portland, No Motiv, Sunday Flood, Portastatic, Mars Parker and the Hi-Fi Circus Act, Ruby, Echo Orbiter, The String and Return
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