Splendid E-zine presents

our weekly collection of shorter reviews

Lisa Sokolov, Marc Olsen, Travis Pickle, DJ Cheb i Sabbah
Pledge Drive, Pizzicato 5, Chase Ave., Mogwai

Lisa Sokolov / Lazy Afternoon / Laughing Horse Records (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "On a Clear Day"
The vibe I get from Lazy Afternoon is that Lisa Sokolov is very serious about her music. The downtown NY jazz chanteuse clearly invests a lot of energy into her interpretations, as if she wants to milk every possible nuance out of every word she sings. This makes for a highly mannered, stylized approach to classics such as "Sunnyside of the Street", "On a Clear Day" and "Over the Rainbow" and even less likely suspects like the traditional Shaker tune "Simple Gifts". Unfortunately it also makes for lethargy as this syrupy rubato drips from your stereo speakers. I tip my hat to Ms. Sokolov and her dedication to what I can only term as experimental interpretation, but I also acknowledge that it takes a lot of energy to listen to and decode this stuff...listener beware! -- nw

Marc Olsen / didn't ever...hasn't since / My Own Planet (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Martian Romance"
This is Olsen's second solo disc, and his first time recording with a full band, so I gather that Didn't ever...hasn't since has a fuller sound than his previous work. It's low-key guitar pop with psychedelic and folky overtones, and that's pretty much all you need to know. Although the disc is peppered with catchy micro-moments (like the chainsaw-style guitar lick on "Aspirin"), most of it floats past in a pleasant but anonymous cough-medicine blur. If I was sacked out on the couch listening to didn't ever... and someone came in and asked me what I was listening to, there's a good chance I'd have to hunt down the CD case before I could answer. -- gz

Travis Pickle / Travis Pickle / Travis Pickle (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Mr. Boyfriend"
Hey, Travis Pickle! Alright! I like this band. Fun lyrics. Catchy melodies. Attractive band members. Somehow they're pre-familiar, which is perhaps their most obvious liability. There's nothing particularly distinctive about these Travis Pickle people, unless writing a CD full of alt-rockish songs sung by a girl and a boy with some neat weirdo production noodling thrown in is distinctive. Hmm, well maybe it is. Anyway, it's good stuff. -- ib

DJ Cheb i Sabbah / Shri Durga / Six Degrees (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Ganga Dev"
It's probably wrong to put DJ Cheb i Sabbah in the same boat with hip-hop and electronica spin-doctors. Cheb i Sabbah's angle, the fusion of Hindustani ragas with "DJ science", rather unexpectedly favors the raga. You won't find tablas and sitars looped over throbbing techno beats here, but hypnotic Indian tunes reinforced with bass, samples and suitably eastern beats. In other words, the process is somewhat inside-out by Western standards -- elements of our culture have been co-opted and adapted to fit DJ Cheb i Sabbah's worldview. Lovers of Muslimgauze and Bill Laswell (who plays bass on several cuts) should find Shri Durga pleasantly intriguing. -- gz

Pledge Drive / I Gave at the Office / Pledge Drive (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Shenandoah"
As well as having some of the coolest packaging I've seen in a while, Pledge Drive blends a bit of British folk elegance, dulcimer and recorder appearances and primordial guitar into a jagged pop mixture that's tastefully done, and, well, pretty damn good too! Rebecca Marculescu's gorgeous voice carries each note with admirable fluidity as the wide variety of unique instruments provides for some refreshingly remarkable entertainment. Think of the Pogues feverishly mating with Boiled in Lead, and you'll either be sick to your stomach or anxiously rolling up your sleeves in anticipation of more Pledge Drive! -- am

Pizzicato 5 / Playboy & Playgirl / Matador (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Playboy & Playgirl"
Tepid, that's what I'd call it. Given the current mini Japanese Invasion spearheaded by Emperor Norton, Minty Fresh and, yes, Matador, P5's sound is beginning to sound...well, played out. Despite the timelessly retro-hip design and Steed/Peel elegance, we've heard all of this before. "New Song", for instance, doesn't sound like one at all. Don't get the wrong idea -- if the Nipponese Pop section of your record collection is woefully ill-stocked, Playboy & Playgirl will fill it nicely. It's only if you have several other P5 albums that you'll find yourself asking "don't I already own this?" -- gz

Chase Ave. / Chase Ave. / Chase Ave. (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "Hideaway"
There's one thing that's absolutely clear after checking out a few tunes by Chase Ave.: singer Jason Akana has absolutely no qualms about wearing his feelings on his sleeve. While there's barely a trace of three-chord song structures here, the complexity of some of the tunes results in an awkward, off-kilter listening experience. However, "Crosses" and "Hideaway" have this Los Angeles trio balancing distinct vocal inflections with slick, catchy rhythms, revealing some impressive talent that should be further exploited. -- am

Mogwai / Come On Die Young / Matador (CD)

Sample 30 seconds of "CODY"
The Glaswegian indie darlings make their Matador debut, presenting the masses with another mind-bending melange of placid-yet-intense, mostly instrumental guitar meditations. Listening to Mogwai is sort of like being outside on one of those summer nights when it's obvious that a massive thunderstorm is seconds away -- the air feels swollen and oppressive and all the hair on your neck stands up and you know something's going to happen soon but you're not sure what... Still, if you don't live to agree with rock critics, you might actually find Come On Die Young to be a bit dull and repetitive. Shame on you for having an opinion! -- gz

nw - noah wane | gz - george zahora | am - andrew magilow | im - irving bellemead

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