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 #264 reviews
Perhaps most intriguing because of its age (this album was recorded in 1981 and 1982), this set of linear power trio musings is something close to sublime.
Not for the sound, which is positively abysmal. The studio tracks sound like old school demos, and the live sound isn't much better than mediocre bootleg. Still, the ideas within these songs are exciting enough to overcome the extremely primitive production. Suffice it to say Hiromi Unakami's guitar spans the gap between Frank Zappa and Duane Denison, with a real post-rock kinda feel to it.
The vocals are in Japanese (Angels are--or were--a Japanese outfit) and are gawdawful. alternately droning or simply moaning, they don't really do much for the music. But then, the sound is so bad that it's quite easy to simply tune them out as just more background noise.
Pay attention to the music. Unakami's guitar is amazing, and the rest of the band is more than capable. One for the fetishists, I guess, but a real treat for me nonetheless.
Devotional Hymns for the Women of Anu
Anyone who would give their songs names like "Cry Me a River, Elizabeth Nietzsche" and "SS Fuck Puppets of the She-Wolf Ilsa" must be dreadfully interesting. Those titles are funny on too many levels to count. Autodidact caterwauls its way into the senses with the scratchy, power feel of early Godflesh while leaning on distorted melody and mechanistic percussion for wider appeal.
My understanding is that this band is from Austin. At least, that's where the thing was recorded. But it could be from anywhere. This music not only sounds antisocial, it veers off on so many arcane paths that even I (who love this sorta thing) get lost now and then.
Still, the mechanical rhythm structure generally gets things back on track. And no matter how wiggy things tend to get, there's always something interesting going on behind the wall of sonic disturbances. Trying to pierce that shield of white noise isn't easy, but it can be fun.
Yep, another one of those head scratchers I love so much. The 50 or so of my readers who dig this sorta thing are probably chomping at the bit by now. The rest of you can move on, your sanity still intact.
No wave with a prog twist. A lot like U.S. Maple working its way through King Crimson. Loads stranger and cooler than it sounds, too.
Damned if I can really describe this any further. There are two guitars which seem to play rhythm or lead at their leisure, although most of the time they both play lead, sometimes playing in parallel, separated by one meager octave. Thing is, I never could predict what might happen next.
That, of course, is a very good thing. Predictable rock and roll sucks. Big Bear is anything but.
Maybe it's simply been too long since I've heard something in the same ballpark, but Big Bear simply knocks me out. The power, the pain, the sheer agony of the enterprise enthralls me. Turn to 11. And then try to up it to 12.
Sugar in Our Blood
(54-40 or Fight!)
The music is very similar to the bands I've reviewed above, but the presentation couldn't be more different. Channing Cope adheres to that whole post-prog, post-rock, math rock kinda axis, spinning songs that don't so much progress as evolve, but the sound is soft and inviting. A very jazz way to do this kinda thing.
And you know, it's just as satisfying. Channing Cope invests more energy in finding cool melodic lines than selling them to the audience (that would be the math speaking, I guess), but man, what lines! The thoughts expressed in the tangents and curves of these songs would need thousands of words to explain properly.
The more I hear of this sound, the more I like it. Kinda like listening to Stanley Jordan cruise through modern rock theory. Hey, when something works, stick with it, right?
And boy does this work. Yes, the sound is much more commercially viable than that on the albums above, but that's not the reason these boys use it. They sound like this because this is the sound of Channing Cope. And it's a damned good sound at that.
More of that searching, yearning, high lonesome stuff that has found a new home in Montreal. By and large the work of Beckie Foon and Bruce Cawdron (with a few friends chipping in now and again), Esmerine builds its songs around cello and unconventional percussion.
Okay, so maybe the percussion used isn't so odd, but the way it is played creates some really cool tones. When those are combined with the cello, the effect is damned spooky.
A lot like Dirty Three--if you replaced the fiddle with cello and dropped the guitar. The sense of rolling motion is quite similar, as is the pervasive mood of slight unease. The sound on this album is quite stark. My ears tell me that this was recorded live in a miked room. I think the cellos may have been miked separately, but they mix in so well that I'm not entirely sure of that.
One of those wordless albums that speaks most eloquently. Aurora is a haunting work, one that challenges and ultimately rewards those who complete the journey. Life is beautiful, but it's not without pitfalls. Esmerine knows all about that.