Welcome to A&A. There are 12 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 #270 reviews
(November 2005)
  • Anti-Social Music Sings the Great American Songbook (self-released)
  • Baggerboot Baggerboot (Henceforth)
  • Danger Doom The Mask and the Mouse (Epitaph)
  • Gravity Propulsion System Get Destroy (Ascetic)
  • Infinite Number of Sounds Radio Whales (self-released)
  • The Lucy Show Mania reissue (Words on Music)
  • Ming and Ping MP2 (Omega Point)
  • Roma 79 The Great Dying (Ascetic)
  • Ten Words for Snow D*na (Contraphonic)
  • Terminus Victor Under Surveillance (Innocent Words)
  • UHF All Our Golden Tomorrows (self-released)
  • Bob and Danny Weller Tree of Thorns (Circumvention)
  • Also recommended: The best of the rest


    Anti-Social Music
    Sings the Great American Songbook
    (self-released)

    Um, no. Just in case you were wondering, the title is, indeed, a joke. Anti-Social Music is a collective of NYC-area musicians who like to play. Sometimes it's avant-garde classical kinda stuff, sometimes it's fairly abstract, improvisational-sounding (though rarely actually improvised) stuff and sometimes it's just stuff that doesn't fit into neat little label boxes.

    A lot of people wander through a given Anti-Social Music album. A total of 23 folks (if my counting is correct) contribute to the 18 tracks, but each piece has a decidedly different lineup. This might lead to radical shifts in feel--the pieces themselves are often quite distinct--but every time I came away thinking, "Yeah, that's an ASM bit."

    Perhaps it's the cheekiness. The band drops a number of mottos within the liners, but one is most telling: "New music with moxie."

    Moxie. That's it. A playful sense of adventure, or something like that. Without that sense of "Whoops, let's see what's around this corner," these pieces would simply be technical exercises in unusual music. But with the right touch, they become otherworldly. Get ready to be transported.

    Contact:
    www: http://www.antisocialmusic.com


    Baggerboot
    Baggerboot
    (Henceforth)

    This violin/viola, bass and accordion trio is perhaps the perfect counterpoint to Anti-Social Music. Here we have three people playing "free jazz," a form that is often mistaken for pure improvisation. It's not, not exactly, but I'm afraid I'm not the best person to explain the difference.

    Suffice it to say the players have a sense of where they're going. And the members of this trio are so attuned to each other's playing that the songs themselves often sound like they've been written out beforehand (again, something that might well be true for parts of each work).

    But I'm making everything so complicated, when in truth the attraction of this album is simple: Three people who know how to manipulate each other's wavelengths into creating some truly inspiring sounds.

    There's something about the way string instruments grind and groan that plays exceptionally well with an accordion--especially one played with the enthusiasm and range shown by Ute Volker here. Three pieces, all named "Cascade" (I through III) and each of them is almost overwhelming. Spectacular.

    Contact:
    Henceforth
    P.O. Box 33694
    San Diego, CA 92163
    www: http://www.henceforthrecords.com


    Danger Doom
    The Mouse and the Mask
    (Epitaph)

    Collage fans exult! Danger Mouse and Doom come together to salute "Adult Swim." Yeah, it sounds silly, and so it is. And rather than try to dignify this concept with some sort of meta interpretation, Doom and the Mouse embrace the silliness of it all.

    The cultural references (many hailing from universes far removed from Cartoon Network) fly almost as fast as the beats--precisely the sort of zeitgeist surf fans of these guys expect. No disappointment there.

    Or anywhere. The beatwork and production are stellar, and the sound is smashingly smooth. This album has that loopy cocktail hour feel, the sort of thing you might play if serving bubble gum martinis.

    Like I noted up top, this stuff is utterly silly. And that's cool. Why make this any more than it is: An exceptionally silly, fun and infectious album.

    Contact:
    Epitaph
    2796 Sunset Blvd.
    Los Angeles, CA 90026
    Phone (213) 413-7353
    Fax [213] 413-9678


    Gravity Propulsion System
    Get Destroy
    (Ascetic)

    Surprisingly tuneful, even sprightly noise in the finest no wave tradition. Imagine U.S. Maple as a dance band and you might begin to get the idea.

    Or maybe not. There's such an offhanded, loose-limbed feel to these bouncy songs that it is hard to believe they are as scraggly as they are. There aren't that many melodies, but the rhythm section throbs like mad.

    An exceptional sort of racket. The production is surprisingly complex and subtle, weaving all sorts of noisy threads together into the songs here. At times, it is tempting to think what you hear is what you get, but often enough something else comes burrowing in behind. I like that.

    Smashing. Simply smashing. I'll admit to being a big fan of noise with hooks--but hey, isn't everyone? Well, maybe not, but those of us crazy enough to enjoy this sound know that GPS has shot the bullseye this time.

    Contact:
    Ascetic Records
    P.O. Box 2224
    St. Louis, MO 63109
    www: http://www.asceticrecords.com


    Infinite Number of Sounds
    Radio Whales
    (self-released)

    The sort of blocky, introspective instrumentals that I tend to enjoy. There's a logic to each piece, and nonetheless the playing is engaging and fun. These boys ride a fine line between automation and exuberance--and they make that tension last all album.

    I can guess what comes next most of the time (that whole logical thing), but that doesn't make the ideas any less intriguing. Why are the songs say what they are? And how are they saying it without words?

    That second question is a joke, and the first one is merely facetious. That's the sort of geeky whimsy this album inspires in me. And I can't say I'm sorry about that.

    Swell, in the very best sense. I like the way these guys roll. I suppose that's as complicated as my enjoyment gets. It's nice to simply settle down and have a good time every once in a while.

    Contact:
    P.O. Box 14328
    Cleveland, OH 44114
    www: www.infinitenumber.com


    The Lucy Show
    Mania reissue
    (Words on Music)

    Somewhere between early Chills and early Cure (with a healthy dose of Robyn Hitchcock and Echo and the Bunnymen, just for good measure) lies the Lucy Show. The cover is a fine riff on the Smiths, which isn't a terrible reference point, either. And when you consider that this album was originally released back in 1986, I suppose it all comes together.

    So you know where these boys come from. What's more impressive is how far they take this sound. Startling isn't the word for it. Why the Lucy Show never really scored is something of a mystery, although I suppose it could well have gotten lost in the shuffle of the times.

    The sound, in particular, is quite dated. Tinny (of course) and sounding like it was recorded in an echo chamber, there's nothing in the production that helps break these boys out from the other fine U.K. pop bands of the time. Still, it sure sounds awfully good today, especially to folks who remember those times with great fondness.

    It's always nice to get back to high school again--even if I didn't listen to much of this kinda stuff when I was actually in high school. Some things aren't meant to be, but at least we can now hear what never broke. And that's definitely worth a wistful smile or three.

    Contact:
    Words on Music
    715 University Ave. SE #201
    Minneapolis, MN 55414
    e-mail: tidings@words-on-music.com
    www: http://www.words-on-music.com


    Ming and Ping
    MP2
    (Omega Point)

    Some laptop pop sounds utterly modern. Ming and Ping are so goofily new wave they'll never make it back to today. And that's fine with me.

    Fans of early OMD will certainly dig this--and fans of the brothers' first album will certainly appreciate the increased maturity in the writing. That first album was remarkable, but there was a rough-hewn quality to the tunesmithing. Those ragged edges have been sanded down here--and that's a good thing.

    Damn, but these songs are gorgeous. The boys aren't the world's greatest singers, but they've created such lush, vibrant music that there's no reason to complain. Just sink into the velvet melodies and lose your mind in the pleasure.

    Again, it's wonderful to trip back into my high school days--especially with a new album. I suppose those without any nostalgia for the "real" 80s might not be so excited, but I can't imagine anyone not appreciating the beauty and cleverness of this album. MP2 is even better than the first.

    Contact:
    Omega Point Records
    3921 N. Claremont, 2F
    Chicago, IL 60618
    www: http://www.omegapointrecords.com


    Roma 79
    The Great Dying
    (Ascetic)

    When all else fails, write good songs. I don't know if that's Roma 79's motto, but it might as well be. The performances are spot-on, if a little generic, but the songs themselves are so brilliantly conceived that it's hard to notice.

    The techno power trio (I suppose you could make a reference to Trans Am, though I wouldn't) is an unusual way to present straight-ahead rock songs, but here come these pieces adorned with keyboards, guitar, bass and drums (though generally not all four at once). The arrangements are simply spectacular.

    And the sound is solid. The keyboards are treated as a regular instrument, not a throwaway or something used to mask other deficiencies. Each part is utilized to its full potential.

    Just a highly enjoyable listening experience. Nothing more complicated than that. These boys know how to put together a good song or few. Which is more than enough for me.

    Contact:
    Ascetic Records
    P.O. Box 2224
    St. Louis, MO 63109
    www: http://www.asceticrecords.com


    Ten Words for Snow
    D*na
    (Contraphonic)

    Back when indie rock cut its teeth, the Cars were huge. Lately I've been hearing a lot of "modern" indie rock artists that sound like Ric Ocasek and company.

    Most of it is probably an extension of the increasing use of piano and keyboards (one of those cyclical fads, I suppose, but one I wholeheartedly endorse), but that combination of punk guitar edge, pop melody and constantly-moving keyboard work was infectious back in the early 80s, and it still is. Ten Words for Snow rips into this sound with both barrels firing.

    To be sure, these guys aren't above going all minimalist now and again (more Luna than Galaxie 500, if you get my drift), but there's a lush feel to many of these songs that helps the basic structures of these songs transcend the "regular" indie rock sound.

    In the end, it is just music. Labels fade and the question becomes "Is it good?" Um, yeah, this is good. Sometimes it's even great.

    Contact:
    Contraphonic
    P.O. Box 2203
    Chicago, IL 60690
    www: http://www.contraphonic.com


    Terminus Victor
    Under Surveillance
    (Innocent Words)

    Back when I was a youth and the world was a garden of earthly delights, there was a band called Arcwelder. I guess Arcwelder is still shambling about Minneapolis, but it's been a while since I've heard this particular mechanical punk sound.

    Which isn't to say these boys are any sort of carbon copy. The drum machine alone is a huge change (Terminus Victor is two guys, and the programming completes the trio), but there's just a certain epic something that provides a pleasant echo to my ears.

    The sound itself is sharp and technical, but not sterile. The guitars wail, the bass slides in next to the drum machine (as it should, as Scott Kimble handles both tasks) and the vocals have that half-AOR/half-industrial sound to them. Very cool.

    So, yeah, maybe this is some sort of bastard child of Arcwelder and Bloodstar (a Swiss metallic industrial duo from years--many, many years--past). That's just fine with me. Loud, vaguely melodic and sweetly acerbic. Ah, yes, that's how I like my tea.

    Contact:
    Innocent Words
    P.O. Box 674
    Danville, IL 61834
    www: http://www.innocentwords.com


    UHF
    All Our Golden Tomorrows
    (self-released)

    Remember all those shiny Britpop bands from the late 80s and early 90s? Before Oasis? You know, Blur, EMF, Jesus Jones, Happy Mondays...that sorta thing? UHF takes the party Madchester vibe of that stuff and then adds in a mature sensibility.

    For some reason, I hear echoes of the last U2 album, but only fragments here and there. Maybe it's the abandon--one of the reasons I thought How to Dismantle... was that band's best effort in almost 20 years. A calculated abandon, perhaps, as these songs are exceptionally crafted, but there's a live wire spirit flowing through this entire album.

    And even when the boys decide to get a little trippy and psychedelic (which fits some of those references just fine), the songs simply keep on rolling. The shiny production sound fits the pop views of these boys just fine. And it complements the more introspective moments as well. Like the songs themselves, this sound is exceptionally crafted.

    All that work and very little sound of anything getting forced. This is a gorgeous album, one that seems to expand its grand vision song by song. Just sit back and let the music take over.

    Contact:
    116 NE Russell
    Portland, OR 97212
    www: http://www.uhfweb.com


    Bob and Danny Weller
    Tree of Thorns
    (Circumvention)

    And now back where we started. Bob and Danny Weller lead a fine quintet (which includes two more Wellers, Ellen and Charlie, and Cliff Almond) through a number of their own pieces and a few standards.

    The arrangements are somewhat unusual, what with the heavy reliance on piano and bass (in almost equal measure). It's more the combination rather than the featuring of the instruments themselves that catches my ear. By and large, though, this is still traditional jazz fare. The solos are well-taken, fitting in well within the songs.

    The sound, too, is traditional jazz, leaving plenty of space for all the players to express themselves while still providing a modicum of warmth to the proceedings. That's a tradition that will likely never go out of style.

    Not the most adventurous outing around, but a highly enjoyable one nonetheless. Weller, Weller and cohorts know their way around a tune, and the songs here get fine workouts. Solid, refined and most engaging.

    Contact:
    Circumvention Music
    P.O. Box 948609
    La Jolla, CA 92037
    Phone (858) 205-8859
    www: http://www.circumventionmusic.com


    Also recommended:

    Breadfoot featuring Anna Phoebe Tea with Leo (Jeeziepeezie)
    Breadfoot supplies the country blues scenery, and Anna Phoebe adds her exquisite violin. An exceptionally rich and textured set of songs. Perhaps a bit more "straight" than my regular readers might anticipate (this contains none of the agonized dramatics of a Dirty Three, for example, even though the music itself is similar), but there is a simple joy in guitar, banjo and violin.

    RP Collier Map of the Sky (self-released)
    Minimalist (to the extreme) fare played on thumb piano, synthesizer, toy synthesizer and guitar, with occasional drum machine accompaniment. The sound is then further processed. At this point, we're dealing mostly with ideas. And Collier has a lot of good ones.
    Contact:
    www: http://www.cdbaby.com/rpcollier

    Cosmologic III (Circumvention)
    Modern jazz quartet (occasionally a quintet) let by Nathan Hubbard, Michael Dessen and Jason Robinson. Maybe that's too many leaders, but they all contribute songs. The extremely democratic doling out of songs and solo time also carries over into the nicely balanced feel of the group. The only thing that dominates is the music--and this is very good music.

    Coyote Poets of the Universe Movin' to the Movement (Square Shaped Records)
    Space western music (think Hans Zimmer's score for Thelma and Louise, with more bounce). Then add in poetry read by the poets (and edited by the band). Some work better than others...that's the way of poetry, I think. But this is never dull. There's always something cool happening along the edges.

    Harris The Light Is Sleeping Through the Cracks (self-released)
    Solid emo, but with a twist. There are these proggy keyboards, and every once in a while that sentiment seeps into the rest of the band. Fine, intriguing stuff. Nice to hear someone tweaking a most common sound.
    Contact:
    www: http://www.harriscore.com

    Lovewhip Virtual Booty Machine (self-released)
    I really liked the first album I heard from these folks, and this one is pretty good. Melding ska/reggae rhythms and bass with techno pop is an inspired idea. This album is a bit more mechanical and less organic...and I miss the more overt emotion of that earlier CD. Still, this one is awfully fun. Excellent for shaking the booty.
    Contact:
    www: http://www.lovewhip.net

    Wayne Peet Quartet Live at Al's Bar (pfMENTUM)
    Three pieces, and all of them quite involved. Peet plays organ, which gives his quartet a kind of jazzy Doors feel...not exactly my cup of tea, but there certainly is a palpable sense of danger in each of these songs. Most of the time, the tension is resolved in ingenious fashion. A fun listen.

    Reverend Glasseye Our Lady of the Broken Spine (Music for Cats)
    Gothic roots music. Sometimes the goth hand is a bit overplayed, but I've got to admit that this is one interesting album. Strange doesn't begin to describe it, but then, it's impossible to deny the quality of the songs. Overwrought? Occasionally. But always worth hearing.

    The Thin Man Greasy Heart (Contraphonic)
    More rambling, rootsy observations from these folks, who sound an awful lot like Jon Langford's loopy cousins. Which is an awfully good thing. The songs keep a rolling, and the smile keep a coming. And just when you think you're lost, you arrive.

    Various Artists Longshot Presents Civil War Pt. 2 CD+DVD (EV Records)
    Risky Bizness mixes this set of Chicago hip-hop. A total of 36 artists appear here, sliced and diced in rather attractive fashion. Just throw this disc on the stereo and let the scene unfold from there.

    Ricky Votolato Makers (Barsuk)
    Damned pretty acoustic fare. Yeah, it's probably best described as singer/songwriter stuff, but Votolato has a distinctive voice, and just as important, a distinctive playing style. He's not afraid to peer into dark corners and see what's stuck in the cobwebs.

    We Are the Musk Brigade Sand Dunes and Beef Balloons (MT6)
    So all you need to do is send Jesse Krakow a half hour or so of you screwing around on an instrument or singing or whatever, and then he passes it around to a few friends (usually four contributors in all) who keep fucking with it until it's "done." If you think this sounds cool (as I do), then this is certainly a disc worth scoping out. Completely warped, in a most charming fashion.

    With Honor This Is Our Revenge (Victory)
    The stuff is vaguely tuneful subset of highly-competent hardcore, and as such has a certain attraction. I don't find it offensive in the least. It's quite well done. Maybe it ought to be more offensive. Or something.


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