Welcome to A&A. There are 21 full reviews in this issue. Click on an artist to jump to the review, or simply scroll through the list. If you want information on any particular release, check out the Label info page. All reviews are written by Jon Worley unless otherwise noted.|
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A&A #244 reviews (August 2003)
The interesting thing about Android Lust is what it's not. This act isn't darkwave or industrial dance or electronic or gothic. Rather, it's all of those and more.
The idea seems to be to use every idea and method at the artist's disposal to create an alternative world, a place that lies just out of phase with our own. The keyboard washes aren't quite beautiful. The vocals aren't quite utterly distorted. The melodies aren't quite deconstructed.
And yet, there's a lot of that going on. Shikhee, the woman who is Android Lust, takes great care to keep the listener just off balance. The effect is stunning; while it's impossible to settle into pocket with this album, there's no way to walk away, either.
Completely arresting, in other words. And completely original. In a field that is populated by many who seem to be unable to break out of the ruts, Android Lust soars above, daring any and all to approach its greatness.
Home by Now
Some of you might recall my rave review of the Pasties album from last year. Well, the Pasties are no more, but Devon Copley is back with a new venture. He and musician/producer Alex Wong are the Animators. The sound is much more conceptual and crafted (Wong has a degree classical percussion), but the results are similarly excellent.
It took two tries for this puppy to get to me (thank you, Mr. Mailman), but I'm glad it finally arrived. The songs are sweeping, epochal, tightly-constructed pop tunes, the sort of thing that only recently has become fashionable again.
Wong has a fine hand in the studio, using all sorts of synthesized instruments and found bits to fill out the sound. Yeah, the style is a bit sterile, but it really fits the songs well. Despite the intensity of craft (which is probably a bit easier for me to hear than most folks), these songs have depth and soul to spare.
What I'm saying is that it's impossibly easy to fall into this album and just lie there for a few hours. Those expecting a rave-up will certainly be disappointed, but anyone who cares about good music will be instantly transported to a very good place.
It's been a while since I reviewed a "straight" jazz album. You know, one which relies on established form and content rather than extreme improvisation. I've never been particularly comfortable reviewing jazz, due to my decidedly limited knowledge, but I like the stuff. So here goes.
First, Borgo plays tenor and soprano sax. Generally tenor, and he sounds more comfortable on that instrument. Second, most of the songs here are his pieces or those of his mates. One glaring exception to that rule is Charles Mingus's "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love," which is played without much embellishment.
Borgo is a fine player, but the real strength of this album is his writing and the quality of his band. I don't know how well these guys know each other, but they have a real rapport. The solos are taken within the concept of the group, which lessens the individual effects but strengthens the sound as a whole. I haven't really described the actual sound, and that is hard to do. There are bop moments, and there are certainly cool moments. Borgo does well to incorporate a number of sounds into his mix. Think late 50s Coltrane, but with a fuller and more collaborative band. This album isn't about one person's genius. It's about the beauty of a sextet working songs to the limit. And that's pretty damned good.
A few years back I was hooked up with the fine folks at Wordsound in Brooklyn, and I got a dose of slammin' experimental dub every few months. But lately, my mailbox hasn't heard a thing from those parts. So this disc is a welcome toast to my ears.
Throbbing, bounding beats that defy any particular label. This is dub in that there are very few articulated words--with the exception of some fractured bits from Young Sand on "New Sand." This probably isn't exactly what old school dubheads would expect, but then again, I don't know much of the new school.
I simply know that this is very impressive. Dub Gabriel creates entirely new sounds for each song and then goes wherever the mood flows. There is an expectant feeling here, an omnipresent thought that something new is about to happen. And it usually does.
Strip off your cares and just dive in. Let the beats take control and then see what happens. This is a good trip. I promise.
Some very clever Brit-pop types who happen to hail from somewhere in the DC area. J. Robbins produces, and he's barely able to contain the exuberance.
The first track, a dead-ringer for something off Loveless, is called "Derivative Opening." The songs then fly through a wide range of sounds, all somewhat loosely centered around the whole post-hardcore pop sound perfected by Robbins's old band.
But why the fake British accent? And why only sometimes? Is that part of the joke? I don't know. These boys can be awfully earnest when they want to be, though when one of the featured links on your website is to the Manowar web home, well, that is a sign of a certain deranged sense of humor.
Thing is, I don't have to analyze the music to know it's good. This stuff is amazing. My reaction is both intellectual and visceral. Very few bands can attract on so many levels. Fairweather is probably a bit too much (of lots of things) to make the big time, but great music is always its best reward. Awe-inspiring, to say the least.
Hard to believe that Floating Opera has been around for more than 10 years. A collection of musical castaways in Lincoln, Neb., the "band" started as the collaboration of Charles Lieurance (lyrics) and Richard Rebarber (music). The pair recruited vocalists like Lori Allison (the Millions) and Heidi Ore (Mercy Rule), members of the aforementioned bands and other crack players.
Rebarber is a math professor at the University of Nebraska (you can even read his papers on the web site!), and his music is pleasantly mannered. It's also exceptionally complex and enthralling. He manages to whip up a glorious order from the mess of voices and instruments that populate each song.
And the songs are hardly repetitive. All of the piecess do fit into nicely into the "crafted pop" world, but Rebarber likes to stretch himself. And so the moods of the songs rise and fall. Lieurance's lyrics are intimately detached, if that makes any sense. The subjects of the songs seem to be aware of the song being written. Does that make sense? Probably not.
So ignore all the silly crap I've written so far and read this: Floating Opera creates music that is impossible to forget. I've been listening to these folks since 1997, and every person I've turned on to the band has fallen in love. These folks are proof that magic is very real, indeed.
Free From Disguise
Free From Disguise
You might be wondering how Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother and the Holding Company translates in modern-day Osaka. Free From Disguise must be the answer. Made up of the members of Mady Gula Blue Heaven (I'm not making this up) and singer Akiko Otome, these folks wail their way through some of the most heavenly hardcore acid rock I've ever heard.
The bizarre music is more than enough to attract my attention, but Otome's deep, rugged, bluesy voice is a revelation. She really knows how to bring down the curtain. Equally adept at shrieking and nailing a torch song right on the head, she's just about perfect.
The first four tracks were recorded in the studio, and they sound great. The last five songs (including renditions of three of the studio tracks) were recorded live, and they are hit and miss--as far as sound goes. The live setting proves that these folks know how to take their psychedelic punk to the stage.
Otherworldly, in a way that I never expected. My guess is that Free from Disguise inspires either devotion or disgust, with very little room in-between. The valentine written here exposes my position, one I'm happy to proclaim for all to read.
Hanzel und Gretyl
If I am to understand the press correctly, there are those who think that Hanzel und Gretyl have appropriated some kind of Nazi image with this album. Well, some of the graphics do borrow from that sort of thing, but it's all obviously a joke. I mean, "Third Reich from the Sun?" Come on.
What isn't a joke is the music, which is pleasantly stuck in that mid-90s metal-industrial complex. Lots of guitars, lots of samples and lots of singing that may or may not be in German.
The thing that always set Hanzel und Gretyl off from the rest of the pack has been this duo's ability to match raw power with a good melodies. There's more power than melody on this disc, but the stuff is still desperately infectious.
Not a whole lot of progression, I suppose, but I've been a fan for a long time, and I like this stuff exactly where it is. Hanzel und Gretyl are way out of whack with the times, and that just makes this sound all the more appealing to my ears. There's always a need for a sledgehammer approach to silliness.
Jaz, Georgie and Youth team up with Dave Grohl and whip out another self-titled release (no, this is not a re-issue of the first album). I haven't really kept up with the boys in recent years, but as near as I can tell, neither have the boys themselves.
So anyway, I'm listening to this disc. Full of buzzsaw riffage, booming bass lines, bombastic drumming and manifesto-like vocals. Something like electronics-laced hardcore with a Tabasco kicker.
Hard to believe these guys will be eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next year (their first album was released in 1979). I mean, they shouldn't be eligible for the rest home of washed-up hacks. As if the phrases "rock and roll" and "hall of fame" should ever be used together in the same sentence. Killing Joke can still make fresh music that matters. That alone should keep them off the ballot.
Anyway, this album is a real kick in the ass. Long-time fans will be pleasantly surprised; this stuff is quite good. Can't say that the kiddies will come running, of course. Good Killing Joke albums never did sell much. But what the hell. Good music is what matters, right? There's plenty of that here.
Imagine the Dance Hall Crashers as a world pop band. Lovewhip often uses intertwined female vocals, draping them over ska, Afropop and melodies assembled from all sorts of Caribbean and African sounds.
It does generally get back to ska--complete with a nice set of horns--but the little touches (particularly with lead guitar and bass) keep the sound lively and interesting.
Light as a feather, but that's no complaint. The bubbly nature of these songs is what makes them so attractive. This album is all about fun, and there's plenty of that delivered. No need to worry about the transmission methods.
I had a blast. That's all. And for me, that's enough. Lovewhip is kind of a strange name for a band that plys this sort of stuff, but who am I to complain? I smiled the whole way through.
Full Bloom EP
Five songs from these boys. When I was in college, many of my favorite bands came from central Oklahoma (Flaming Lips, Chainsaw Kittens, etc.), and I imagine I'm generally more interested than most to hear what's coming out of there these days.
Mandragora sounds like college stoner rock to me. The sound isn't thick and fuzzy; it's more stripped down and straight-forward. But the themes and even style of riffage do fit. It's just that these boys try to do a little more with the concept.
And it works, often in ways I can't quite explain. Basically, these guys keep driving the songs forward. There isn't a slack moment on this disc, which is always a sign of a band that knows what it's doing. If these boys keep up their focus, they've got real potential.