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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Let the Ground Know Who's Standing on Him
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.
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.