Week of May 14, 2001

[Lonesome Road (The Crawford Variations)]
Larry Polansky / Lonesome Road (The Crawford Variations) / New World

Hearing Lonesome Road is like coming across a giant boulder in your path. It is a monumental, dense and overshadowing work -- 51 movements of fiendishly complex piano music, each derived in some way from the same folk music arrangement by early 20th-Century American composer Ruth Crawford. Like some post-everything Diabelli Variations, it stands as a masterpiece of analysis, imagination and transformation, at once recalling Liszt and Thelonius Monk...more»

Sound Team / Self-Titled / Self-Released

The Sound Team get the best compliment I can give to an obscure group: when friends come over, I put their CD on and proudly claim I'm in the band. These fellas from Austin have produced one of the coolest, funniest and most relaxed recordings you are likely to hear. Parts of every song seem to catch them at unscripted moments of wild imagination. For example, "Emotional Swings" begins (as do most of the tracks) with a smattering of funny dialogue...more»

[Leaves Turn Inside You]
Unwound / Leaves Turn Inside You / Kill Rock Stars

The first band to sign to Kill Rock Stars, Unwound now celebrates its tenth anniversary with the release of Leaves Turn Inside You. This fourteen-song affair remains rooted in the impulsive volatility that is Unwound, but goes about lighting the fuse in a much more temperate and scrupulous way. The opening number, "We Invent You", fuses dramatic vocals with stabbing guitar lines, creating a evocative piece that reflects upon the album's dreary and melancholy title...more»

[From Here to Infirmary]
The Alkaline Trio / From Here to Infirmary / Vagrant

Produced by long-time associate Matt Allison, From Here to Infirmary is the record the Alkaline Trio has always promised and threatened to make. It blends their trademark jackhammer riffs, frantic rhythms and heart-on-the-sleeve lyrics with deft production and a heavy dose of humility, creating a sound that’s both heartfelt and horrifying. The album also finds the band’s obsession with skulls, cops and fire firmly intact —- further strengthening the argument that the Trio remain too dark to be emo and too harsh to be pop...more»

[The Shell Game
Tim Berne / The Shell Game / Thirsty Ear

Tim Berne may eschew such earthly things as genre labels, but his latest album is clearly dominated by jazz. Jazz is one of those terms that carries a lot of weight without really meaning anything, as it encompasses the frenetic dissonance of Ornette Coleman, the smooth crooning of Duke Ellington and the fusion experiment of Miles Davis. Berne's saxophone work builds on the legacy of such legends and pushes the music into interesting new territory...more»

[Left to His Own Devices]
Vic Chesnutt / Left to His Own Devices / spinART

As an album title, Left to His Own Devices offers both a literal and a metaphorical description of the works found herein. On this collection of demos and rarities, just about all of the vocal and instrumental performances were provided by Chesnutt. He plays straight to a four-track and tweaks the tunes with ProTools. But that's not the most interesting part. For the good stuff, look at the less literal interpretation of the title...more»

[respect to dj deep]
DJ Deep / Respect is Burning presents: Respect to DJ Deep / Astralwerks

If you're going to steal, you should steal from the best -- and that's certainly what Deep has done here. Deep's remixed tracks include productions by Little Louie Vega, Kerri Chandler (aka KCYC, who has done stuff with garage that would make a decorator swoon) and Olivier Portal, who has worked with Femi Kuti). When he slips in some world music, it's all the currently trendy tribal sounds, like soca, Ivoirienne and Nigerian music, soul, latin funk and cuban salsa...more»

The Joel Futterman/Ike Levin Trio with Randall Hunt / InterView / IML

Opening a CD case like this one can be scary: herein lies a free jazz trio wielding a slighty-off name, horrible artwork, a slavish two page write-up by Mark Goble and, as an opening track, a 23 minute space odyssey. Free jazz, like other improvised musical styles (Sonic Youth, Tortoise, etc.), must walk a fine line between being too jazz -- and therefore not "free" -- and being too free...and therefore not "jazz". Futterman, Levin and Hunt add a few sonic flourishes to piano, tenor saxophone and contrabass...more»

[hindle wakes]
In The Nursery / Hindle Wakes / ITNCorp

Like the other Optical Music releases, this is a subtle score, remaining respectfully in the background rather than attempting to steal focus from the visual elements of the story. One of ITN's trademarks -- massive bursts of swelling, slightly syrupy strings -- is almost completely absent here. Strings are applied lightly and gently, and are typically accented by trebly, minor-key piano tinkling. Even when the group's "standard" interplay between strings, keyboards, piano and wind instruments is at its most familiar...more»

[joie de vivre]
Moving Pictures / Joie de Vivre / Shelflife

I don't know much about Moving Pictures, other than that they're "one of Spain's premiere pop/bossa nova groups". I don't know what that means either. I do know that they sound an awful lot like Belle and Sebastian doing Sundays covers, except that only the girl Belle and Sebastian singer is singing, and she's trying her best to sound like the girl from The Sundays. I don't know where the boy B&S singer is. He must be off chewing on his sleeve or something...more»

[watch for today]
The Now Time Delegation / Watch For Today / In The Red

For an ensemble cast on a debut album, the band members sound surprisingly comfortable with one another. The instrumentation is completely true to the early '60s soul sound (nothing places you in 1964 quite like a Hammond organ), yet it is infused with a noisier, more electric, element. There is one completely inspired and brilliant track on Watch for Today -- "Hangin’ Tree", written by Tim Kerr, sounds like it could be a plantation gospel handed down through the ages...more»

[Et Tant Pis Si Cela Vous Déplaît]
Les Séquelles / Et Tant Pis Si Cela Vous Déplaît / Grenadine

Les Séquelles play sixties-style French cocktail rock -- basically a slightly cleaner take on garage rock. The Montréal-based band's sound is simple: two guitars, a bass, drums and occasional organ, with male and female vocals delivered in unaffected French. A healthy dose of reverb pervades throughout, dragging the swelling organ riffs in psychedelic directions. Les Séquelles' rock is too timeless to be retro and too catchy to be kitschy. Songs like "Cocktail Monotone" will get you up on your feet...more»

[guest host]
Stew / Guest Host / The Telegraph Company

One of the great things about singer/songwriter projects is the increased emphasis placed on lyrics, as well as the opportunity to view the musician from a different -- and, in most instances, intimate -- perspective. This stripped-down approach allows the listener to get acquainted with Stew and opens the gate for eclectic, witty references that run the gamut of pop-culture. Listeners are treated to allusions to obscure songwriter David Ackles, French star Jacques Brel and jazz subversive Nina Simone...more»

[we both know it's out there]
Violet / We Both Know It's Out There / Wine & Vinyl

Mainly an acoustic album, We Both Know It's Out There is a blend of all that is great about simplicity and quietness. "If Only I Could" wanders down the road of a Celtic-style lullaby, while "Amber Falling" delivers blues a la the Cowboy Junkies. This is not to say that Violet don't take chances with straight-ahead rock; they do so on the rollicking "Undercurrent" with an aggressiveness that's hard to match...more»

[at a glance]
And this week in At A Glance:
Open Mike: A Tribute to the Songs of Mike Merz, Volume One, Phoenecia, Ester Drang, Hollywood Superstars, Duf Davis and the Book Club, Kittyhawk, Tekulvi, Joel Bachrach and Friends, Hood, 99cent Dream, Chante! 1985-2000, Ambiance magnétiques, Volume 5, Daedelus, Paper Airplane Pilots, The Beatings, The Tighties, Jill Brazil, Perry Botkin, The Album Leaf, Rufus Maneuvers, Violet Indiana, Looking for the Perfect Glass: U.S. Pop Life Vol. 11 California Post-Punk, Chelsea's Corner, Diesel Boy, Glass Planet, Loren MazzaCane Connors, Organic Audio, Micromars, Jeff McLeod, Isabelle's Gift, The Posies
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