Week of October 22, 2001

[fucc the i.n.s.]
Kultur Shock / Fucc the I.N.S. / Kool Arrow

These eleven tracks are a schizophrenic bum rush of hardcore punk and Balkan folk music that is both exhilarating and terrifying in its intensity. If you can't imagine what this mix is like, envision a horde of gypsies running rampant while listening to Iron Maiden, and you'll be close. Kultur Shock's cadre of musical insurrectionists (I believe there are eight of them) does to central European folk traditions what the Pogues did to Irish music: they beat the hell out of it until it screams for more...more»

[the glow, pt. 2]
The Microphones / The Glow, Pt. 2 / K

The Glow, Pt. 2 is a logical but seldom-explored extension of early-'70s prog-folk pioneers like Dom and the Strawbs. It approaches this mostly unexplored area of rock's past with the same degree of experimentation, and classical expertise, but Elvrum fuses his tracks with more inward emotions, and the sort of fragile voice that wasn't commonly heard until indie rock's heyday. He also updates the sound by casting aside the stoner aspects of the music in favor of something purely organic and human...more»

[what I know about being gigantic]
Minus the Bear / What I Know About Being Gigantic / Suicide Squeeze

Due to Jake Snider's presence on vocals and guitar, Minus the Bear sounds a lot more like Sharks Keep Moving than they resemble any of the other members' bands -- but that's only because they sound nothing like Botch or Kill Sadie. So what do they sound like? Well, kind of like your favorite emo band that doesn't suck, mixed with The Cure, with some fun electronic undercurrents running through, minus the angst that both emo bands and the Cure tend to exude in spades. The song structures are complicated, but unfailingly melodic and catchy...more»

[12 (Las Vegas is Cursed)]
Hector Zazou and Sandy Dillon / 12 (Las Vegas is Cursed) / FWD

Sandy Dillon is Zazou's new secret weapon. Her range of vocal "characters" is impressive; she channels the alien sweetness of Björk, the cold and clinical precision of Portishead's Beth Gibbons and the fractured sensuality of Tricky vocalist Martine, without even breaking a sweat. And that's not all; on several tracks, Dillon unleashes a terrifying Delta Blues rasp, howling and muttering like a woman possessed. It almost seems too easy to call her a female Tom Waits...more»

[Ludo Luda (Fools Fancy)]
Csókolom / Ludo Luda (Fools Fancy) / Arhoolie

Playing the traditional folk music of the Greater Transylvania region, Csókolom perform with an urgency that belies any thought of dredging up the past. Led by Yugoslav-born violinist and singer Anti von Klewitz, this four-piece (rounded out by Sander Hoving on kontra, Anneke Frankenberg on violin and Gregor Schäfer on double bass) roams central Europe on its second album, collecting melodies from Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and points further afield...more»

[big top]
Whit Dickey / Big Top / Wobbly Rail

I was a bit surprised to find Big Top as accessible and as enjoyable as I did. Dickey, an unusual candidate for band-leader (being a drummer and all), is my kind of drummer. He does a lot of cymbal work, punctuated with tom-bashing, that comes across as incredibly subtle, yet rich in texture. It makes perfect sense, then, that Dickey has brought in Joe Morris as Big Top's guitarist. Morris is hands-down my current favorite jazz guitarist; he has a tight, precise style that's both familiar and exciting...more»

[there are no new clouds]
Ides of Space / There Are No New Clouds / Better Looking

Modestly mousing their way through the new, angular sound of indie-rock, Ides of Space offer songs that grow with each listen, and that probably have the shelf-life of Twinkies. Taking what now seem to be the de rigeur trappings of modern post-punk pop-rock -- oddly-syncopated, not-always-quite-4/4 drumming, echoing lead guitar lines, spacey keyboards, melancholy, half-sung floating lyrics and plenty of distortion -- Ides of Space meander through this well-produced album with grace and aplomb...more»

[album 1: the glass room]
Legends & Deeds / Album I: The Glass Room / Recourse

Rivers Cuomo would envy The Glass Room; it's pure retro-pop with a heavier edge, spiralling harmonies and production sensibilities that seem more in line with Starship's "We Built This City On Rock And Roll". Some of the harmonies wouldn't, admittedly, be out of place on a Weezer album, though they're sufficiently dissimilar to warrant further attention; the directions these tunes take aren't as predictable as an initial flick through the tracks would suggest...more»

[...and his cowboy killers]
Willie Heath Neal / ...and His Cowboy Killers / Cargo

Fortunately for Willie Heath Neal, one doesn't have to have an original thematic or musical concept in his brain to produce a good, boot-scooting rockabilly record. Willie Heath Neal and His Cowboy Killers is fundamentally different from many of the rockabilly, psychobilly or any-other-billy albums that have been released since the Stray Cats made it acceptable again: there is no irony here...more»

[ruy blas!]
Rah Bras / Ruy Blas! / Lovitt

Almost everything about the album says "We're a decadent techno-goth band from somewhere in continental Europe". Even the group's music seems to have been retooled to fit this ersatz image; once an unpredictable noise-rock outfit with a fondness for beats, they've morphed into a weird amalgam of Atari Teenage Riot, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Arab on Radar and The Faint, pairing unpredictable (if not downright counterintuitive) rhythmic and melodic shifts with a disarmingly club-friendly vibe...more»

[presents for the present]
Ringer / Presents for the Present / Animatronic

For some intangible reason, Presents for the Present is a very satisfying album. The songs are short and catchy; opening track "Looker", for example, gives the album an energetic start with a quick, building riff that explodes into a bouncy, singalong chorus. It's followed by "Oxen", which can only be described as exuberant -- a song unashamed to reclaim a spirit of youth with a chorus featuring the lines "Ollie ollie oxen-free, now you're running away from me"...more»

[big group hug]
Saso / Big Group Hug / Melted Snow

The music on Big Group Hug could be thought of as melancholy or gentle, but there's something more than that running through these tracks, tying them together. It could be the piano that unifies them, but I think that the guitar work is the best and strongest glue. It's simple enough not to distract from all the other sounds, but its tone is somewhere between sad and hopeful, which is so strange that it's hard to ignore. The songs themselves actually teeter between sad and hopeful...more»

[the autumn kaleidoscope got changed]
Satanstompingcaterpillars / The Autumn Kaleidoscope Got Changed / Self-Released

Every song here begins with such utter simplicity that, under the right conditions, your mind wraps around the music and the sound is fully contained within you. The songs develop slowly, adding one -- or at the most, two -- new layers of sound, barely expanding to the area outside of your head, always remaining close to you. Eventually, you become so entwined with the music that turing it off would be as empty an experience as taking a morning walk through the woods without hearing the birds chirping...more»

[welcome to the infant freebase]
The Soundtrack of Our Lives / Welcome to the Infant Freebase / Hidden Agenda

This is another reissued album from the Swedish group that apparently swallowed whole some of the best of the hard rocking bands of the sixties and seventies: the Doors, the Kinks, the Stooges and the Who. You certainly couldn't compare them to any group formed in the last twenty years. The guitars and bass whine and howl like damned souls in the Ninth Circle. Ebbot Lundberg's cigarette-raw tenor is often merely a thin howl. At times he sounds a bit like Bono...more»

[let it come down]
Spiritualized / Let It Come Down / Arista

Let it Come Down is rumored to have taken nearly two-and-a-half years to create, and to have cost the record company an exorbitant sum of money -- not to mention many a night’s sleep. While this journey might very well have been long and torturous -- not only for Jason Pierce himself, but also for the musicians working with him -- the result proves to be well worth the time and trouble. The disc's opening track, "On Fire", picks up where 1997’s Ladies and Gentlemen we are Floating in Space left off...more»

[mixed live]
Tall Paul (DJ) / Mixed Live / Moonshine

Joining forces with the Moonshine crew, Tall Paul has tried his hand(s) at the Mixed Live series. Just as the name suggests, these 16 tracks are an unaugmented live DJ set, recorded during the grand reopening of Giant in Los Angeles. With an almighty sound system, pro decks and a (presumably) chemically altered audience before him, Tall Paul triumphantly makes clear that he doesn't need behind-the-scenes extras or recording studio trickery to pull off his distinguished house style...more»

UrboSleeks / Preconsumptions / 8th Street Music

Preconsumptions tests many different waters but maintains a coherent sound. The opening track, "Egzect Disidge", kicks in with a speedy fuzz bass barrage, then breaks into a catchy mid-section with rolling drums, chimes and vocalist Jason's high, almost British-sounding vocals melodically skipping over the pulsating undertow. The song then descends into a five-minute psychedelic jam-out, and finally fades out in a swarm of jittery noise...more»

[the entire history of punk]
Various Artists / The Entire History of Punk / Dressed to Kill

Licensing issues and costs had a lot to do with which songs made it onto this collection, which is part of the reason why The Entire History of Punk doesn't even come close to living up to its title. Even with twenty CDs, over 300 songs and about 15 hours of punk music, it's missing groups like Television Personalities, Public Image Ltd. and the seminal Howard Devoto bands. It also ignores almost every great American punk band...more»

[at a glance]
And this week in At A Glance:
AM/FM, Tweaker, Bruce Anderson and Dale Sophiea, Happy Supply, Brazen/Kevlar, Vibrationland, Pilote, The Court and Spark, Turnerjoy, The Emerald Down, Peter Frampton, Hot Little Rocket, Mark Mallman and Vermont, Suite 706 at Hyatt Regency Paris-Madeleine, Tenboy, Amber, Tamika Williams-Clark, Rally Boy, New End Original, String Builder, Replicator, Interfearence, Velvet Crush, (Smog), The Clean, Boilermaker, (lYd)2, Half-Handed Cloud, Broadway Project, Trans Champs, Craig Taborn Trio, Bill Morrissey, Trent Summar & The New Row Mob, Mixmaster Mike, Vanethian, Charly McLion, Finisterre, TKA
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