Welcome to A&A. There are 19 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 #261 reviews
(February 2005)

  • Architects Keys to the Building (Anodyne)
  • Alan Bernhoft Mrs. Sippy Bone (self-released)
  • Capillary Action Fragments (Pangaea)
  • Darediablo Twenty Paces (Southern)
  • Anousheh Khalili Let the Ground Know Who's Standing on Him (Triple Stamp)
  • Kieskagato Kieskagato EP (self-released)
  • The Mattoid Eternifinity EP (Cleft Music)
  • MF Doom Mm..Food (Rhymesayers)
  • The Migration Usually Destroyed (Subspace Platform)
  • Casey Neill Memory Against Forgetting (AK Press-Daemon)
  • One Star Hotel Good Morning, West Gordon (Stereo Field Recordings)
  • Page France Come, I'm a Lion! (Fall)
  • Silo 10 (Dogfingers-Uncle Buzz)
  • Tobin Sprout Live at the Horseshoe Tavern 2xCD (LunaMusic)
  • Tarantel Paper White/Big Black Square 2xEP (Temporary Residence)
  • They Walk in Line Medical Necessities (Rock Ridge Music)
  • Tree Wave Cabana EP (Made Up Records)
  • William Elliot Whitmore Ashes to Dust (Southern)
  • Madelin Zero Dirty Purple (Indecent Media)
  • Come together: Compilations, etc.
  • Also recommended: The best of the rest

    Keys to the Building

    If there's one thing I've learned in the 13+ years I've done A&A, it's that every city of 100,000 or greater has a music scene. And while Los Angeles may be the commercial music center of the world (and Chicago the spiritual center of music for the world), it's possible to find good music just about everywhere. And recently I've been reminded that one of my old haunts (Kansas City) is just as fertile as it ever has been.

    Architects play a heavy-handed, soul-drenched version of early 80s AOR--with a serious punk chaser. Buzzsaw guitars aping old (and most excellent) Van Halen and AC/DC riffs, electric piano and organ filling in the holes and a strident, insistent rhythm section, shouted (yet controlled) vocals. Another way to read this might be the Delta 72 meets the MC5--in Kansas City rather than Detroit, of course.

    What is rock and roll, anyway? It's a fuckin' mutt. A whole bunch of music that was once thrown away. Architects pieces together its sound from disparate sources, but it never forgets that a solid hook and an earnest soul can sell just about anything. These songs are hard-working and true. They bleed rock and roll.

    The second fabulous album I've heard from a young K.C. band in less than a year. Glad to hear it. I hope the clubs down in Westport are a bit more open to new talent than they were when I was around, because these folks need to be heard. Now.

    Anodyne Records
    1800 Central St. #103
    Kansas City, MO 64108
    www: http://www.anodynerecords.com

    Alan Bernhoft
    Mrs. Sippy Bone

    Alan Bernhoft is well-schooled in classic rock...everything from the Replacements to the Beatles, if you're willing to accept my definition. He's willing to dip into the blues, roots, punk, pop and just about anything else in order to write the song he wants to hear.

    This disparate and wide-ranging palette is held together by fairly primitive recording. The sound is rough and often sounds like it has pegged the levels now and again. Still, all those serrated edges can't take away from the sweetness of the songs. Bernhoft writes some of the tastiest hooks I've heard in a while.

    And, well, he's one hell of an expressive guitar player as well. He's not exactly a virtuoso, but he knows how to wring a song out of the strings. And that's more important than the finest technique on the planet.

    A quick search shows that Bernhoft has cranked out a number of these self-released discs. If those other discs are anywhere near as good as this one, I simply cannot understand why someone hasn't taken a chance on the boy. He';s a fine writer, and he has a great feel for crafting songs in the studio (even if the results are a bit crude). Top notch.

    Capillary Action
    (Pangaea Recordings)

    If the Fucking Champs are the, um, champs of instrumental geek hard rock, then Capillary Action is the champ of instrumental geek rock. Incorporating elements of math and all sorts of other abstract post-rock movements, these songs trip merrily along, their lines intersecting where they can have the largest impact.

    What's somewhat unusual here is the use of organ. Most bands of this sort want to keep their sound clean and clear, and an organ certainly does muddy up the works. But that's exactly what gives these songs their humanity. They are geeky, but with a certain charm as well.

    And unlike some plyers of these waters, Capillary Action makes sure that its lines incorporate a modicum of melody and structure. These songs aren't all about a wild field trip to the frontal lobes--though you may pack your bags, if you wish.

    A gentle take on a sound I truly adore. I'm a big fan of music that makes me think, and these boys have enough ideas to keep me occupied for months. A solid set.

    Pangaea Recordings
    P.O. Box 142
    Oberlin, OH 44074-0142
    www: http://www.pangaearecordings.com

    Twenty Paces

    SAT nostalgia time: another analogy. If Capillary Action represents the pleasant, rounded edges side of geek rock, Darediablo is the band on the edge. This trio takes the Trans Am vision and then burns holes in every expectation.

    This is music that excites on all levels. There's the visceral rush of the riffage, which is consistently awe-inspiring. And then there are the softly-spoken lines in the background, the stuff that is worth pondering for an age or two. Some albums simply scream "Listen to me again and again" from the first note. This is one of those.

    The sound is heavy and sharp, and the use of keyboards (a synth, I assume, as the keyboard sound morphs from organ to electric piano to a wide variety of artificial sounds as well) isn't a mollifier. Rather, these keys are played to their full effect, blistering holes in the ozone layer as they spread their destruction. The overall sound is so enthralling I simply cannot imagine anyone failing to be taken with it immediately.

    Yeah, but then, somehow, there are some people didn't like Pulp Fiction. Fuck 'em. This is one of those albums that ought to tear the ears off just about everyone. If there's a fault to be found here, I don't know where it is. Pretty damned fine.

    Southern Records
    P.O. Box 577375
    Chicago, IL 60657
    www: http://www.southern.com

    Anousheh Khalili
    Let the Ground Know Who's Standing on Him
    (Triple Stamp)

    Woman at piano, playing songs of anger, betrayal and general angst. I suppose I might think of this as just another Tori Amos ripoff. Except that I don't like Tori Amos at all. And I like Anousheh Khalili a lot.

    First and foremost, this is almost entirely Khalili and her piano. There are a few vocal overdubs and the occasional bass and percussion, but by and large this album is simple, spare and rather arresting.

    The closest comparison I can come up with is David Singer. Yeah, Singer uses a much fuller orchestration, but his songs revolve around his remarkable (and unusual) voice and a piano line. Everything else is window dressing. Khalili simply left off the accouterments.

    One of those albums you'll love or hate within the first minute. Khalili is direct and to the point. She doesn't shift around her sound or vary her style much at all. She's just who she is. And I think that's something most impressive.

    Triple Stamp Records
    P.O. Box 5753
    Richmond, VA 23220
    www: http://www.triplestamp.com

    Kieskagato EP

    First and foremost, the band is giving this disc away for free. Well, they'd like a buck for shipping, but what a deal! Anyway, this EP consists of new versions of songs from the band's two albums (one of those sets done under the moniker Rm 101), specially recorded to celebrate the new four-piece (as opposed to the former five) nature of the band.

    Not only do these boys ply the line-driven, moderately abstract waters of the post-rock universe, they write songs that make sense within that structure. Interestingly, the band's album last year only rated a short review (which merely means I liked it a lot), but this one gets a fuller treatment. So am I a fool or are these new recordings of old songs actually better?

    Both. I don't think I fully appreciated the band's exceptional handle on such a complex sound--though, like I said, I liked it a lot. Upon listening to the older versions, I find these new renditions fresher, tighter and altogether more arresting. Slimming down has its advantages, I guess. Kieskagato's next move ought to be quite interesting.

    4803 SE Kelly
    Portland OR 97206
    www: http://www.kieskagato.com

    The Mattoid
    Eternifinity EP
    (Cleft Music)

    Oh. My. God. The Mattoid returns. Talk about someone whose appeal is utterly mystifying. He's got a three-note range--and that's being generous--and his songs all have a similar "boom-boom--boom--chick--boom--boom--boom--chick" rhythm. And then there's his accent, which can morph from straight American to British to Ahnold-ish Austrian.

    Let's not forget the songs, which are about as close to being about nothing as is possible. But the funny thing is I love listening to the guy. There's a stream of consciousness feel to these pieces, as if they simply bubbled out of the back of his brain and onto CD.

    Wesley Willis with actual talent--and not quite so repetitious. I'm sure lots of folks simple scratch their heads when they hear the stuff, but I think it's great. More fun than minor electrocution...but with more seizures.

    Cleft Music
    P.O. Box 330976
    Nashville, TN 37203-7507

    MF Doom

    MF Doom may play in the fields of hip-hop, but the real star here is the way he puts his songs together. There's a real pop-meets-electronica to the songs...anyone remember MC 900 Foot Jesus and DJ Zero? Right. These songs aren't quite as joke-laden, but they do have a similar collage style.

    Of course, a lot of these songs are damned funny. MF Doom leavens his humor with serious asides (and vice versa), which gives this album a sort of worldly feel.

    I'm not sure exactly what audience this album is supposed to attract. It isn't a traditional hip-hop set at all, it's a bit silly for the taste of your average beat junkie. In a lot of ways, the disc doesn't really fit in anywhere. Which is probably why I dig it.

    A weird, goofy little snack. And, hey, it's also a fairly warped concept album...and the concept is, indeed, food. There's a lot lying beneath the surface. Take your time uncovering it all.

    Rhymesayers Entertainment
    2411 Hennepin Ave. S.
    Minneapolis, MN 55405
    e-mail: info@rhymesayers.com
    www: http://www.rhymesayers.com

    The Migration
    Usually Destroyed
    (Subspace Platform)

    Punchy fuzz-pop with a delightful undertow. Another take on that old AOR theme, this time with processed harmonies and somewhat unusual chord changes. Well, that and no anthems as such. Which would make this almost Cars-meets-Steely Dan, I guess.

    Actually, I like that reference a lot. These guys have buffed up their sound to an extreme shine, and I get the feeling they want to really get somewhere. And why shouldn't there be room for a sound like this?

    Why not, indeed? I like the way the parts are assembled in such a crafted manner. Once the theme has been set, it's set, but within that structure all sorts of interesting things happen. There always seems to be about one more sound than I was expecting.

    Which might be the band's downfall, at least as far as major label interest goes. These guys are actually good, and they show little need to dumb down their sound to gain acceptance. Of course, you new know what cold hard cash can do for that silly thing known as "artistic integrity." Here's hoping these boys stick to their guns, wherever they roam.

    Subspace Platform
    5543 Case Ave. #206
    North Hollywood, CA 91601
    e-mail: subspace@subspaceplatform.com
    www: http://www.subspaceplatform.com

    Casey Neill
    Memory Against Forgetting
    (AK Press-Daemon)

    Casey Neill combines traditional roots music themes and sounds and merges them almost seamlessly with the power of modern technology. The recording simply pops out of the speakers--I haven't heard production this fine on a roots album in ages.

    And that spectacular sound pales in comparison to the grace and strength of Neill's writing. He's adept in all sorts of styles, from bluegrass to reels to folk to ballads, and he infuses his songs with a depth of lyrical detail that is rarely found. The richness of each song is almost overwhelming.

    Then we get to the amazing sound. While this sort of music does sound pretty good when presented unadorned, this album is proof that an outstanding producer can punch up the material without overdoing the job. The sound on this album is truly alive; these songs throb with life.

    One of the finest albums I've ever heard. Period. Every part is spot on, and Neill proves himself one of the best songwriters around. A must not only for the roots fan, but for the fan of great music in general. Neill has been doing this for more than 10 years...I've got to get my hands on that back catalog. This album is truly sublime.

    Daemon Records
    P.O. Box 1207
    Decatur, GA 30031
    Phone (404) 373-5733
    Fax [404] 370-1660
    www: http://www.daemonrecords.com

    One Star Hotel
    Good Morning, West Gordon
    (Stereo Field Recordings)

    There's a review on One Star Hotel's website that calls the band "Wilco without the weirdness." I'm assuming this is a reference to latter-day Wilco, as that band's early days were much more Counting Crows-like. Anyway, I kinda like that review, though One Star Hotel is much more roots-inflected than art pop-directed.

    This is simply solid, introspective rock and roll with a back porch feel. One Star Hotel's eccentricity manifests itself in the often unusual use of keyboards and some rather unexpected bridges. But instead of sounding like some sort of lurching monster, these surprising encounters delight.

    The sound is full without getting overbearing. Every once in while, when the boys really want to dust some sugar on the hooks, there's a full-on sonic boom, but mostly the sound follows the lead of the songs, moving along in comfortable, if somewhat unusual ways.

    Solid stuff. This ought to prick up the ears of fans of progressive pop, whether you're talking Radiohead or the Flaming Lips or Wilco or whathaveyou. There's no one thing about this album that really stands out for me, but the overall excellence is quite apparent.

    Stereo Field Recordings
    11 N. 3rd St. #2
    Philadelphia, PA 19106
    www: http://www.onestarhotel.net

    Page France
    Come, I'm a Lion!
    (Fall Records)

    The sort of intensely dreamy pop that I'm used to hearing from Deep Elm bands. Page France can take a long time to get to the point, but man, once the point is made you'll never forget it.

    Kinda like the Comas that way, I suppose, though these folks are even more elliptical. I love the way the songs kind of wind their way around themselves. Sorta like the way R.E.M. songs did twenty years ago, except with a completely different feel, of course.

    This is a very quiet album. Even when the songs get raucous, the feel is still intimate. Like being in the collective brain of the band or something. That's a pretty brilliant accomplishment, if you ask me.

    One of those "sneak up on you" albums. I liked the first time I heard it, but now I like it a whole lot more. It simply takes a while to get attuned to the wavelengths here.

    Fall Records
    P.O. Box 20886
    Baltimore, MD 21209
    e-mail: info@fallrecords.com
    www: http://www.fallrecords.com

    (Dogfingers/Uncle Buzz)

    Just James Sidlo and Warren Rivera playing guitars and messing about with effects and electronics. Of course, when I say just, I am being facetious.

    Yes, I am talking about highly abstract improvised fare. But the pictures painted by the sounds on this album are extremely discrete and vivid. Some folks know how to work within this type of construct, and some don't. These boys know what they're doing.

    This says it was recorded live at Silo 10. I don't know if we're talking about a real grain silo or simply a studio, but wherever it is, the acoustics are pretty spooky. The choice was a good one.

    I'm always at something of a loss reviewing albums like this, as appreciation of this particular style of improvisational music is very much in the ear of the beholder. I liked the contemplative nature of the pieces, and I found myself quickly sucked into the atmosphere of the work. That's good enough for me.

    Dogfingers Recordings
    P.O. Box 2433
    San Antonio, TX 78298

    Uncle Buzz Records
    5014 Arbor Ridge
    San Antonio, TX 78228
    www: http://www.unclebuzz.com

    Tobin Sprout
    Live at the Horseshoe Tavern 2xCD
    (Luna Music)

    A full set from Tobin Sprout, with three new demos tacked on to the end. Those who don't know Sprout might well find this set of his deceptively simple pop songs a revelation. Those who know him will know most of the songs (which include a couple of songs he wrote with Robert Pollard while a member of Guided by Voices).

    The sound is pretty good. Not studio quality, but I like a little mess in live albums. Otherwise, it might as well be new noodlings on old themes, right? In any case, Sprout and his band blow through 29 songs without flagging a bit. The demos are, well, the usual outstanding work.

    Highly recommended for fans and for anyone who digs slightly loopy, exuberant pop music. If you haven't gotten into Sprout yet, this is the perfect primer.

    Luna Music
    1315 W. 86th St.
    Indianapolis, IN 46260
    Phone (317) 252-5862
    Fax [317] 252-5880
    e-mail: weloveyou@lunamusic.net
    www: http://www.lunamusic.net

    Paper White/Big Black Square EPs
    (Temporary Residence)

    While I got these two EPs on one CD, I'm guessing they'll be available separately. Which is the right thing to do. Because while Paper White and Big Black Square consist of pieces recorded during the sessions for the band's last album, We Move Through Weather, they are two completely different works.

    Paper White is four songs. Actual songs, that is, composed and crafted and all that. Tarantel's near-obsessive attention to detail is in full force here. These songs may wander, but only along a carefully prescribed path. I love the way these guys manufacture an environment and then move within it.

    Big Black Square is an extended improv (45 minutes in all), and it sounds like one. The feel is loose and very amorphous...a completely different side to the band. It's interesting to hear how ideas get worked out amongst the members of the trio. While this doesn't sound a bit like the band's well-sculpted "composed" works, the thought process of the band remains. A most interesting piece.

    Like I said, I think these EPs will be available separately. Paper White will be instantly accessible to all fans, and certainly carries on the ideas of We Move Through Weather. Big Black Square is a much more difficult work to get into, though I think those who find the time and the energy to do so will be justly compensated.

    Temporary Residence
    P.O. Box 11390
    Portland, OR 97211
    www: http://www.temporaryresidence.com

    They Walk in Line
    Medical Necessities
    (Rock Ridge Music)

    Rock Ridge Music is an enterprise headed up by Chris Henderson of Three Doors Down and a couple of experienced music industry pros. I don't know much about the other bands on the label lineup, but They Walk in Line does a pretty nice job of balancing a commercial sound with solid and sometimes unconventional songwriting.

    The writing is what gets to me. The songs are generally built around the rhythm in the rhythm guitar, and the vocals are allowed to float freely above the music. This is not unlike what U2 did 20 years ago, but They Walk in Line has a much more modern, stripped-down feel.

    Interestingly, these boys have more of a new wave approach to melody than U2, though the guitars are wonderfully discordant--I like that sort of juxtaposition, myself.

    The production is pretty much stock major label sheen, which does dull some of the more interesting edges. But most of the good stuff is still there, even if it is hiding a bit. And anyway, the boys have a right to sell a few albums. If the world was just--which we know it isn't--Medical Necessities would do just that.

    Tree Wave
    Cabana EP
    (Made Up Records)

    Tree Wave combines the ethos of simplicity and the penchant for plinky melodies of laptop pop (a Commodore 64 synthesizer program is included on the CD) with the lush psychedelic distortion that seems to be returning in full force.

    I haven't heard this combination of sounds before, and when you add in Tree Wave's decidedly nonconformist song construction style, the result is an exciting and intriguing set of songs.

    After a few more listens, I'll probably be able to figure out how substantial this set actually might be. For now, though, I'm quite excited. Tree Wave has happened upon something truly wonderful.

    Made Up Records
    6011 Ross Ave.
    Dallas, TX 75206

    William Elliot Whitmore
    Ashes to Dust

    William Elliot Whitmore takes his inspiration from just about anything that might be called roots music: rural blues, folk, you name it. He's got one of those raspy voices--with a real range--that gives him instant credibility. This is a voice that has lived.

    His songs are generally written in some sort of blues construction. Not call-and-response so much as a ballad style. But not romantic. These songs are probably best described as laments. Really cool ones, at that.

    While Whitmore's voice and acoustic guitar have a truly rustic feel, there are a few additions in the studio that really help to fill out the sound. Particularly arresting is some haunting electric guitar work that doesn't add melody but rather a sense of loss.

    The complete package. Whitmore can write, play and sing the blues. These songs are some of the most arresting I've heard in quite a while. Whitmore is an American original.

    Southern Records
    P.O. Box 577375
    Chicago, IL 60657
    www: http://www.southern.com

    Madelin Zero
    Dirty Purple
    (Indecent Media)

    I know, I know, there are a million blonde bimbettes trying to break into pop music. I like Madelin Zero because there's almost no chance that she'll become a major star in the U.S. She's simply too interesting.

    Dirty Purple is a great Eurotrash dance album. With its heavy techno grooves and slutty disco beats, these songs are much more appropriate for the salons of "old" Europe. There are some superficial resemblances to Madonna's collaborations with William Orbit, but here the chilly sounds don't cancel out the fun.

    I really like the electronic feel of the album. The production does kinda jump all over the place within that sound, but at the core is a love of simple melody and good dance grooves. Worthy aspirations, to be sure.

    Like I said, I don't think this is the album that will break Madelin Zero here in the states. Kinda like Kylie Minogue, I'd guess that Zero is "cursed" to become a European dance queen who occasionally hits in the land of red and blue. There are worse things that could happen. One could make crappy albums. Now that would really suck.

    Indecent Media
    P.O. Box 186
    Teaneck, NJ 07666
    www: http://www.indecentmedia.com

    Come together: Compilations, etc.

    Various Artists It's a Team Mint Christmas Vol. 2! (Mint)
    Yes, this review comes too late for Christmas. Too bad. This CD brings in the 5 tracks from the limited edition Vol. 1 7" of four years ago and drops in eight more twisted Christmas songs. And then there's the truly bizarre cover of "Do They Know It's Christmas." Simply the finest seaonsal album of the, um, season.

    Various Artists Organelle (Save Your Servant-Tiberious-State Bird Records)
    I've always made fun of Cincinnati. And while there are still plenty of good reasons to do so, the music scene isn't one of them. I've heard some great stuff in the last few years, and this CD--intended as something of a "document" of the scene--is proof that good music can, indeed, find a home in the most unusual places. I still don't want to move there, but I'm always happy to get music from Cincinnati.

    Various Artists Tell-All Records Vol. 1 (Tell-All)
    I don't generally review label samplers, but I'd never heard of this label and anyway, the stuff on it is exceptional. The sounds trend toward introspective, complex, moody rock. No navel-gazing here, though. Only plenty of top-notch pieces full of self-examined grace.

    Also recommended:

    Alva Star Escalator (Princess)
    Tight, slightly off-kilter pop music in the vein of the Shins. Alva Star relies on electronics (keyboards, in particular) more to create its moods, but that's cool. This stuff is otherworldly. And I mean that in the best way possible. I'm thinking this one will grow on me after a few months.

    Busdriver Fear of a Black Tangent (Mush/Dirty Loop)
    Jam packed with an astonishing amount of cultural references (starting with the title, of course), Busdriver lies somewhere between electronic collage and hip-hop. There's so much going on here that it can be hard to find a point of access. Then again, when so much is going on there's always something appealing passing the ears. A real mess, but one that is most worthwhile.

    Andre Bush Start from Silence (self-released)
    Andre Bush is a jazz guitarist, and he plays in something of a fusion/new age style. I know those don't quite fit, and that's what I like about these pieces. They are straight jazz, but there are these other ideas creeping around as well. I don't particularly like fusion, and I detest new age stuff, but Bush uses a deft hand to make his pieces connect.
    Odd Culture Productions
    1459 18th St. #158
    San Francisco, CA 94107
    www: http://www.andrebush.com

    David Borgo Reverence for Uncertainty (Circumvention)
    Borgo plays sax--soprano, alto, tenor, you name it--and his pieces are improvisations with a revolving circle of friends. The improvisations are more contemplative than complex, but they set a mood that is most inviting.

    CEX Starship Galactica (Temporary Residence)
    Better known as Rjyan Kidwell, this CEX (pronounced "sex," of course) album came out in 2001. It is getting a bigger presentation now, and I'd guess that its combination of electronic beatsmithing and collage-style melodic construction is more in tune with today's audiences. References to Aphex Twin and Autechre are not outlandish.

    City Brown Paper Bag (1.1.7 The Music)
    Sterile electronic beats, fuzzy soul grooves (anyone remember Starpoint?) and a healthy dollop of insouciant hip-hop attitude. I have no idea if this sound is commercially viable, but as a child of the 80s, I really locked into what these folks are doing. Quite a nice job of mixing some ancient styles.

    Vitor Cunha Strangers at Dawn (Alta Frequencia)
    Steeped in the Dire Straits version of the blues, Vitor Cunha plays some nice guitar and lays down some sweet, laid-back grooves. I'd be a bit more excited about this if it didn't sound quite so much like Knopfler and company's mellower side. Nonetheless, the guy has a handle on this sound. He sounds damned cool.

    Eddie the Rat Drop Me Off in Denpasar (Comfort Stand)
    The concept of the pieces here is to use the piano as a drummer uses the set. Head Rat Pete Martin put these pieces together as an exercise, but they do work outside of that context. And since the songs themselves wander through all sorts of ideas and moods, the feel is exuberant, not clinical. Another fine outing by Martin and pals.

    Eluvium Talk Amongst the Trees (Temporary Residence)
    Talk about yer abstract, atmospheric fare. Eluvium (whose name is perfect for the music it plays) wandering in and out of moods. Calling these songs is a bit much, but as a trafficker of ideas, the album has an awful lot to say.

    Electric Frankenstein Super Kool (Morphius)
    Cheap, sleazy, fast and loud. Electric Frankenstein is punk music distilled to its hedonistic purity. There's not a lot here, but it sure is an awful lot of fun to hear. Ear candy of the sweetest kind.

    Nathan Hubbard Skeleton Key Orchestra 2xCD (Circumvention)
    An excess of riches. I love Hubbard's inventive improvisational percussion style, and this set of eight lengthy pieces (the number of players alone justify the "orchestra" appellation) shows off his musical instincts to their fullest. An ever-challenging and inventive series of works.

    Randy Kaplan Perfect Gentleman 2xCD (Yellow Thing)
    Kaplan has a pleasant, easy-going hand in his songwriting, and the songs here are instantly likable. Some are better than others, and the 28 here could have been halved to create a truly stellar album. Still, this does demonstrate Kaplan's ample writing skills.

    Ian McGlynn Tomorrow's Taken (Bailey Park)
    The little sticker refers to this as "AM radio pop." If that doesn't make sense to you, think Supertramp. Then again, you'll probably either get or miss both references. Anyway, McGlynn is taken with a sort of late-70s pop music that isn't heard much these days. And he does it exceptionally well. The sort of album that haunts.

    Ben Thomas The Recovery (self-released)
    Rousing nuevo-folk. Thomas imbues his songs with a playful guitar and often wry, yet introspective, lyrics. And he's not afraid to jump out of his sound every now and again to try something different. I'd be most interested in hearing what he does next.
    902 Prospect Ct.
    Naperville, IL 60540

    Various Artists No Idea Festival 2xCD (Coincident-Spring Garden-Ten Pounds to the Sound)
    A large group of talented improvisational artists descended upon Texas (of all places) last May and played four days of shows in Austin and Houston. This is the sort of devotion required to bring this music to the public, and this document is fresh, exciting and well worth a listen if you are a connoisseur of such fare--or even if you're merely curious. Quite the diverse set.

    Ellen Weller Spirits, Little Dreams and Improvisations (Circumvention)
    Weller plays a number of wind instruments (flute, clarinet, etc.), and having those instruments in the forefront lends an entirely different sound to improvisation. As a former clarinetist, I must admit to a certain affection that way, but Weller and her friends are so in sync that many of these pieces sound like written songs rather than spontaneously conceive works. Fun and enervating.

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