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
Sings the Great American Songbook
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.
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.
The Mouse and the Mask
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.
Gravity Propulsion System
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.
Infinite Number of Sounds
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.